Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oil cleanup crews leaving Mississippi's barrier islands

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS--Visitors to Mississippi's barrier islands this spring and summer will notice something different: Very few oil cleanup workers.

Dan Brown, superintendent of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, told The Mississippi Press that cleanup will stop on March 1, so as to not disturb the nesting areas for shorebirds and turtles. The work will resume on Aug. 15th.

Brown said workers have already removed a lot of oil from the barrier islands of Petit Bois, Horn, West Ship, East Ship and Cat. But he admits there is still more there.

Last week, the Coast Guard released a report saying the Gulf beach cleanup has reached a point where crews, heavy equipment and thorough scrubbing can cause more damage to the ecosystem than good. The report said recent oil samples show weathered oil found along beaches has lost the majority of the toxic compounds in it and the oil left on shores meets federal safety thresholds for people.

Terry Morris, a retired National Park Service ranger and oil spill coordinator, said maintenance and monitoring teams will continue to check the island beaches from March through August. He said areas with oil and without birds will be cleaned.


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