REPORTING · 6th July 2010
A group of BC Coastal First Nations Leaders boarded a plane last week and flew down to Houston Texas to begin a journey of discovery on the devastation hitting the Gulf of Mexico. They undertook this expedition due to the promotion of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway twin pipeline project, which would bring condensate into Kitimat for the Tarsands facility in Alberta and to ship the Tarsands raw bitumen out to offshore, likely Asian destinations. The leaders wanted to see first hand the results of this disaster and how it was impacting the people and the environment. They also wanted to witness the clean up efforts.
Speaking to us by phone today from Vancouver, Haisla, Kitamaat Village Councillor, Gerald Amos described some of his observations. Amos and the others arrived back in BC late last evening. Amos expects to return to the Northwest tomorrow.
They first stayed in New Orleans using it as a base to travel to the various locations they wanted to visit. They travelled throughout Louisiana, to Mississippi, Alabama and to Florida.
“We were literally run off our feet.” Stated Amos, “ We’d leave at 6 o’clock in the morning from our Hotel and get back at 11:30, midnight, one o’clock everyday. There is a lot of driving. It’s a big area but not totally big but you literally have to drive all around the bay [to get to the various communities].”
At Pensicola, Amos stated, the residents and tourists described how it was rare to find a place to lay your towel down on the beach where presently the beach is all but deserted. Amos stated every beach was shut down. Talking to a family of three, Mom Dad and an 8 year old girl at Grand Isle, he discovered they held an event similar to the Fishing Derby’s held in the Northwest regions but they call it a Fishing Rodeo. All of this has of course been cancelled. Amos described seeing a definite sheen of oil as they were looking across the water at Harietta Bay, a place 30 miles outside of Lafitte.
“You could see a definite sheen of oil but there was a one foot chop […] and in that area there was probably a billion dollars worth of equipment just sitting around.”
Amos stated the equipment couldn’t work even in a small one foot chop, the oil they were trying to skim would just splash over the booms.
He went on to talk about the shallow shrimp fishing grounds. They met with the head of the Shrimp Fisherman’s Association and discovered some unique details. The depth of the water in this area is only between 3 and 10 feet. The fishing is done by netting the shrimp almost like dragging the area. The dispersants used on the oil by BP caused it to form into small tar balls and they are floating all over the place, claimed Amos. These tend to sink to the bottom when the water is cold. In this area however, according to those he spoke with, the heat of the day can raise the shallow water temperature to 90 degrees or more and the tar balls pop back up again.
“It’s like they’re chasing a ghost.” stated Amos
He ran into an electrical contractor who services the boats and ships that supply the Gulf Coast oil rigs. This man told Amos not to let the oil companies get a foot hold and reaffirmed the belief that it is not a matter of if the BC Coast might have a spill of disastrous consequences like the Gulf of Mexico, it is only a matter of when.
Amos talked about walking at Pensacola beach and seeing these tar balls all over the place. There were stations of people set up to clean the oil residue off of people’s feet and shoes. Amos himself had coated the bottom of his runners and had to take them off to allow the crews to clean them. He stated all they were really doing was spreading the oil out thinner, not cleaning it up.
The Coastal First Nations unanimously signed a declaration against the transport of crude oil in the Coastal BC waters. They also invited the District of Kitimat and their Council to join them in their trip to the Gulf of Mexico. The District of Kitimat declined the invitation.
Gerald Amos talks with disappointed Fourth of July vacationers in Grand Isle Louisiana. The beach, closed due to contamination from the BP oil spill, is usually packed with sun seekers. - Greg Brown
-Oil clean up equipment in Barataria Bay. Photo by Greg Brown
Gerald Amos (Haisla councillor) and Art Sterritt (executive director, Coastal First Nations) meet with Clint Guidry (left), acting president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association
Gerald Amos (third from left) and Art Sterritt (fourth from left) meet with Louisiana's Houma Nation and members of an indigenous delegation from Ecuador.
Corexit: The dispersant used.
Comment by R1chard Jenn1ss on 10th July 2010
Out of curiosity, does anyone know the health statistics from the Valdez cleanup?
Question - not a comment
Comment by Dave Brocklebank on 6th July 2010
Enbridge has said (or someone) that they are responsible for the oil only as far as the proposed terminal in Kitimat. After it goes on the tanker who's responsibility is it. In otherwords - which BIG OIL company is the one to pay for the cleanup????
It has to be the responsibility of someone other than the ship owner who through one spill could go bankrupt leaving the taxpayers to cleanup.
Comment by R1chard Jenn1ss on 6th July 2010
The technology used to clean up spills hasn't changed in over 30 years.