PASCAGOULA, Mississippi—As the tides change and sands shift along Mississippi’s barrier islands, more oil, tar, and debris from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico resurfaces. Now the company BP hired to lead oil spill cleanup efforts in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama has dispatched about 200 workers to the barrier islands in an effort to ramp up environmental cleanup operations.
A BP spokesman told the Mississippi Press that most cleanup work on the islands was suspended in March during bird nesting season, although small crews of five to six workers continued to remove tar and oil-covered debris throughout the spring and summer. Mississippi’s outlying islands prevented much of the oil from reaching the mainland shores, but in that process the ecologically sensitive lands bore some of the heaviest blows dealt by the massive BP oil spill.
Now that nesting season is over, BP has sent about 200 cleanup workers to the Mississippi islands. It plans to keep workers there seven days a week and expects cleanup efforts will be inhibited by stormy weather to an extent. BP told the Mississippi Press it doesn’t know exactly how long the cleanup crews will remain there, but cited its progress in pounds of debris removed.
A BP spokesman told the Press that in “October 2010, which was our peak month, we pulled 1.1 million pounds off the barrier islands. In July 2012, we pulled 15,000 pounds, which gives a good indication of the progress that’s being made.” Last January, BP reportedly removed 6,800 pounds from the islands. About 10 percent of the debris removed was tar, the BP spokesman said. Most of the operations are focused on Petit Bois, Horn, Ship, and Cat islands.
BP’s Macondo well released more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf after a deadly blowout killed 11 workers and toppled the Deepwater Horizon rig. The resulting spill continued unabated for 85 days before it was successfully contained.
Coastal residents who see any substance they think may be oil are encouraged to call the national response center at 800-424-8802. The U.S. Coast Guard responds to each report it receives.