The Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) is asking the public to report any sightings of tar and oil that may have been dredged up by Hurricane Isaac and deposited on beaches, barrier islands, marshes, and other areas.
As the storm makes its way inland and flood waters start to recede, the agency said it is possible that oil that submerged oil and tar from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have been washed ashore by the storm’s upswells and surges. Oil, tar, and oily debris may be present on Louisiana’s beaches, barrier islands, marshes, and other coastal areas following the storm, the agency said, warning that people should avoid handling any such material if they see it.
Contact with the oil could lead to a multitude of health problems, such as chronic coughs, respiratory distress, dizziness, and headaches. Widespread reemergence of submerged oil could reignite sicknesses brought about by contaminated air, water, and seafood, authorities say.
Scientists and government officials estimate that 1 million barrels of crude oil (42 million gallons) remain in the Gulf, about a fifth of the total spill but still 4 to 5 times the amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez – the largest U.S. spill before the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
GOHSEP officials said that reports of any oil, oily material, or oiled debris should be made to both of the following numbers: 1) the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802 and (2) the 24-hour Louisiana Emergency Hazardous Materials Hotline at (877) 925-6595.
Anyone who encounters what may they suspect is oil from the Gulf should follow the following tips from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals:
Avoid direct skin contact with oil, oily material, and oiled debris.
Do not drive your boat through oil slicks or oil sheens.
Young children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and individuals with underlying respiratory conditions should avoid affected areas.
Do not let pets enter oil-affected areas.
Do not burn debris, driftwood or other materials contaminated with oil.
If oil gets on your clothing, wash separately from the family laundry. You may use your regular detergents.