Report on trip to Grand Isle La. on Sunday, August 8th

By Elizabeth Cook

When first arriving in Grand Isle, I stopped at the Bridgeside Marina and spoke to the owner, Buddy Vegas. He was a wealth of information.
He stated BP is using every trick in the book to fire people right now, rather than lay them off. There have been extensive drug testing, and workers are getting fired. He believes BP is about to conduct massive lay-offs.
Regarding the state of the waters, Vegas trawls for shrimp and bait in the waters of Andre Bay, which is in back of Grand Isle. Andre Bay has been more or less protected by the barrier islands, Elmer and Grand Isle included, which are keeping the oil out of the bay. The same can't be said for Barataria Bay. Vegas said when fishermen drop anchor in Barataria Bay, they pull up oil. The bay is in bad shape. When I asked him, Vegas said he has heard about the spraying of dispersant in the bay at night in Barataria Bay.
I spoke to a woman, Karen, who works with Dean Blanchard. Blanchard is a blunt speaking wholesale seafood owner who has been in numerous videos of meetings and interviews on YouTube. Blanchard is out of the country, she said. Karen stated she has also heard reports that BP continues to spray dispersant, but fishermen working for BP are reluctant to talk. She stated BP employs various methods to delay payment. Blanchard has gone from purchasing 6 million pounds of seafood between May and July of last year, to just 1 million pounds of seafood in the same time period this year.
An activist from Florida was also in Blanchard's office, Gregg Hall. He gave me a report on the state of beaches in Pensacola. Tar balls and oil continue to wash up on Pensacola beaches, but the beaches remain open. Gregg stated the push for tourism dollars keeps the beaches open, despite the continuous presence of oil. In addition, there are reports of oil suspended in the water column off the coast of Pensacola. Also, oil has tended to collect beneath the sand on the beaches, so that it sometimes oozes or pools out of the sand. Gregg believes the sand in Pensacola is fairly contaminated with oil and you can be exposed to it by walking or sitting on the sand. This confirms a recent report by a news station in Mobile that tested sand along the beach in Alabama and found a high concentration of oil. (link below)
While speaking to Gregg, he received an email from a fisherman, a woman, who had spotted a mass fish kill of red snapper 50 miles south of Port Fourchon. Gregg attempted to secure a boat to ride out and view the fish kill and I offered to ride with him. He wasn't able to secure a boat while I was on the island. I will try to secure pictures or video of the fish kill from the woman who reported it.
I met a young man, Frazier, working with the hermit crab project, initiated by Leanne Sarco, a Grand Isle State Park ranger. They have cleaned thousands of hermit crabs and placed them far from the oil. It takes about 30 seconds, the young man said, to clean a crab, and they are still looking for volunteers. Many of the crabs are collected from the bird sanctuaries on the island.
Sarco said in an interview online, link below, that she has discouraged workers from cleaning on the sanctuary beaches out of fear nests would be harmed. She also reports that oil has collected in layers beneath the sand, much as Gregg and the Mobile news station reports. Sarco can be seen online digging beneath the sand and easily accessing oil that has collected beneath the sand.
I attempted to access the beach on Grand Isle, but the beaches were all blocked by men standing watch over the entrances, or closed with signs. The beaches themselves remain surrounded by temporary orange fencing. I was able to photograph, from a distance, dark-skinned workers who were busy cleaning tar balls off of the Grand Isle beaches.
Main Environment Report on trip to Grand Isle La. on Sunday, August 8th


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