BP’s clean-up response in Pensacola, Florida

I started my morning out on Pensacola Beach documenting tar balls. About 5 today I was doing an interview with Waterkeeper Magazine around Avenida 16 when I saw 4 young men walking down the beach picking up tar balls, none over 20 years old. They all had on one latex glove, similar to the ones you have seen at the doctor’s office and that was the extent of their Personal Protective Equipment. I sat through three 4 hour classes and although all three were a complete joke, I did learn enough to know that a latex glove does not constitute PPE.

I approached these healthy youngins and asked them why they did not have tyvex suits on, or at least gloves and boots. One replied that they were not given them, this same one had oil all over his white shirt, and all of them had at least some oil product on them and their clothes.

By some freak coincidence their supervisor came up in an ATV to deliver water. I asked him why his employees did not have PPE. This is where the story gets interesting. I will spare you the details but will say that this supervisor for Southern Cat was inexcusably rude and would not give his name and refused to give me any answers nor a number to call for answers. Actually he told me to call BP and other unacceptable comments….

So, I went to SRIA hoping Buck Lee and/or staff could help these young fellas. No luck. I went to the Sheriff station on the Beach, however, because this is not a “crime” they could not do anything. So I called Florida Department of Environmental Protection and got the message spread (everyone in meetings). I then called OSHA, had to leave a message. Finally I found the good folks at Channel 3 and filled them in on the situation. The feelings of helplessness compounds….

Maybe it was the mother in me coming out, maybe it was the rage of seeing tar balls all over my beach, maybe it was because I want my life back. Whatever the reason, the fact that not only are we dealing with BP’s inability to stop this leak and our government’s inability to take control of a situation out of control but now add to it worrying about the health of these teenagers being paid pennies compared to what their boss contractors are getting paid made me lose it. It is bad enough we have to stand up and scream for the helpless creatures impacted by this mess, now we have to worry about youngins trying to find work and not being taken care of.

It is sad what the Gulf Coast is being put through, it is heart breaking what the innocent creatures are enduring, it is SHAMEFUL what people are doing to make this ridiculous situation worse!

Keep screaming!!!

Chasidy Fisher Hobbs
Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc.
o: 850-429-8422
We need members to help in our fight for clean water. Please Join NOW: www.emeraldcoastkeeper.org/donate
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  1. Mary Harris

    If I knew just how to – I would forward this to President Obama. I do have faith that he wants to do the right thing about this mess. He is not to blame, nor is the government. BP is unscrupulous – I learned this over 10 years ago from a friend of mine who is a captain of one of the boats that takes supplies to oil rigs in Venice. He worked there – he knew the situation.

    The unfortunate thing here is when business is left to its own devices – this is what can happen.

  2. It’s horrible. I’m even more angry that Florida’s ban of offshore drilling made no difference because Louisiana allowed it for so long. We are paying for their greed.

  3. tar nation

    I worked for Southern Cat and I’m not sure why those “youngins” weren’t wearing the proper PPE but I will tell you WE were required to wear nitril gloves, rubber gloves and booties/duck boots. Have you ever worn a Tyvek® suit? Me either, but I hear that they are hotter than hell and I believe in June the temps were hovering around at least 95 degrees on the beach with heat indexes over 120 degrees – potentially causing these “youngins” to “fallout” (pass out). We were required to wear long pants, t-shirts and steel-toed boots – imagine that in the 95 degree heat. Were you strolling along in your shorts and tank top barefoot?

    I’m not dissin’ you – I agree that mismanagement of this entire process (if there even is one) is reprehensible and the greed involved in all of this abhorrent – but those “youngins” were out there with the only supplies that each crew was given, most likely. Maybe it was because the supplies weren’t available yet as the cash from BP hadn’t come thru. Who knows?

    There are inconsistencies across the board with respect to how each company runs their part of the “business” – I know, I worked for 3 of these companies and each had their own way of doing things and requirements for doing the job (PPE requirements included). Let’s give credit where credit is due – those “youngins” were out their cleaning up the beach with the “tools” given. It’s a thankless job really – long days in the sun, sweat, frustration with the lack of oil to be found and very low hourly pay.

    I’m not going to defend the supervisors reported rudeness – but I think that anyone who worked/has worked these beaches knows that there is always pressure to produce as much oil as possible, no matter what.

    It’s now Nov. and tho I’m no longer on the beach I have friends who are and they’re telling me the oil is there and the amounts are increasing – and people are being let go. What’s up with that? Maybe someone should contact the press about that, again, since BP has led the masses to believe that there is no more oil. I guarantee you that the dispersant that was put out there will have long term effects that no one can comprehend at this point and all of that oil on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is gonna surface – in a BIG way. Then people will be wearing Tyvek®, because we’re going to have a bigger mess on our hands than anyone at this point can imagine. Remember Orange Beach, AL? They wore Tyvek® – b/c the slimy oil covered the beaches – that’s what we have to look forward to in Pensacola. Just wait.

  4. Joe

    As far as the “youngins” I was one of them, but I ‘ve got to say there was nothing harmful on those beaches and it was a great opportunity for me. The “PPE” was always a joke on the beaches of Pensacola, and there was never any order anywhere. The clean up was a joke for the actual cause needless to say(how can men walking the beach with sifters in tyveks actually make any impact at all?) In Venice, Louisiana where I was working for about four months we always had to wear Tyvek suits as we were power washing dirty oil boom and oil skimmers and yes, it was very hot. But it was definatly not a thankless job and we were making a very nice check every week. 84 hours with 44 overtime and $175 a week per diem with a free place to stay was a blessed opportunity for anyone without a job, especially a young man fresh out of high school like me. I never dreamed I could make so much in this horrible economy without a college degree, but even more I got to expieriece Louisiana, an amazing state and culture, as well as Florida,(Im from Chicago). Because of the few people who helped me along the way, I was able to have an experience that will last forever as did many other people I met. I have to say this was amazing and I would love to do this again.

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