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article imageParish official says BP shipped in workers for president's visit

By Kim I. Hartman     May 29, 2010 in Politics
Grand Isle - Did BP hire beach cleanup workers in preparation for President Barack Obama's visit to Louisiana? Jefferson Parish Councilman say so in what he called a dog and pony show staged for the press and the visiting President.
A Gulf Coast official accused BP of shipping workers into Grand Isle, Louisiana, for President Barack Obama's visit to the oil-stricken area Friday and sending them away once the president left the region.
Early Friday morning, "a number of buses brought in approximately 300 to 400 workers that had been recruited all week," Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts told CNN's.
Roberts said the workers were offered $12 an hour to come out to the scene at Grand Isle and work in what he called a "dog and pony show."
But, when Obama departed, so did the workers, he said, adding that he's never seen more than 20 workers at the Grand Isle cleanup site since the effort started.
BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles downplayed the claim Friday evening, telling CNN it is not unusual to see people wrapping up work in the afternoon.
"These individuals are working out in the heat of the sun. These are long days. They start early in the morning and they stop early in the evening," he said. "So the fact that they were leaving the location late in the afternoon was not unusual. It's not associated with the president arriving."
Suttles added that the workers would be back Saturday morning to continue working.
The company hired to provide the cleanup workers told WWL, a New Orleans-based radio station, that it was told to beef up the cleaning work force five days ago.
"No, I did not put extra workers on the job because the president was coming," said Donald Nalty of Environmental Safety and Health, which was contracted by BP to help in the cleanup effort.
An official at the oil cleanup command center told CNN that a temporary busing system had been established to shuttle the growing number of workers because of limited parking and housing accommodations in areas most impacted by the spilled oil. The official said trained responders were putting in 12 to 14-hour days.
Roberts told CNN's Anderson Cooper the hundreds of workers who showed up early Friday wouldn't speak to local emergency management officials.
"The sheriff's office did manage to get one person to speak with them and that individual said they were hired yesterday and told to report to a staging area at 7:30 this morning," Roberts added. "It just doesn't add up."
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