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article imageWith Deepwater well plugged, focus now on shoreline clean-up

By Stephanie Dearing     Sep 21, 2010 in Environment
Those who live close to the Gulf of Mexico are concerned about reports of oil being found below the surface of the sand on beaches. However, a lack of clarity about rules has meant confusion and frustration remain the norm for Gulf residents.
ABC Channel 3 News sent out a reporter to dig under the sand to see if he could find oil last week. However, the reporter found he was not allowed to dig by government authorities who were present on the beach, prompting Care2 writer Beth Buczynski to say "... government officials are still doing everything they can to prevent the public from investigating the state of their national parks and beaches."
Earlier this month, the Chief Executive Officer of the Santa Rosa Island Authority in Pensacola, Florida expressed concern to the Pensacola News Journal that the Sand Sharks brought in for the Pensacola beach clean-up were not digging lower than six inches in the clean-up, even though there is oil found deeper than six inches on the beach.
Within days of Lee's complaint, an answer was available. The reason for not allowing deeper digging. an official told the Pensacola News Journal, is to help protect the environment and/or any existing artefacts that might be buried beneath the sand.
The problem of oil buried deeper beneath the land surface is a universal one affecting all Gulf of Mexico shorelines after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. There are concerns that storms and normal tidal movements will either force the oil deeper below the surface, complicating clean-up; or would wash the oil back into the ocean where it would once again contaminate the ocean and shorelines.
Ecologically sensitive areas present some tricky complications that make the clean-up more urgent and yet all the more controversial reported Gulf Live. Cleaning methods create the controvery - dig by hand or machine, or just forgo digging and allow the sea to naturally clean the oil?
The Christian Science Monitor. reported that shoreline clean-up under NOAA guidelines have meant no deep digging, just surface cleaning.
Other controversies dog beach cleanups. The Pensacola beach clean-up had started with hiring unemployed residents from the area, but in late August, 100 of those workers were laid off, saying they lost their jobs to out-of-town contractors, reported the Pensacola News Journal.
The Deepwater Horizon well, called Macondo 252, was finally capped on September 19th, prompting spokesperson for the Unified Command, Admiral Allen, to declare the well "dead" in a press release issued to mark the occasion.
Once the well was officially sealed, a BP spokesperson was quick to reassure the public that the clean-up was only just beginning, telling WLOX "We know people are concerned on our committed focus on the cleanup efforts. I want to assure you that we continue to have more than 25,000 people working to clean our beaches, our shorelines, our marshes, and to continue our assessing and evaluating of the ongoing recovery."
However, Unified Command's Admiral Allen told PBS Monday "... The next step is to completely clean up the beaches and marshes, at least to the extent that we can without harming them. There are some times where are you better off to leave a marsh alone, rather than have mechanical means being brought in there and actually harm the marsh itself. We are actually negotiating how clean is clean with each state and each... "
At that point, interviewer Jeffrey Brown interrupted Allen to ask "How clean is clean is a negotiation?"
Allen responded with an explanation that likely will not reassure many readers. "That's a euphemism we use at the end of an oil spill to say, is there anything else we can do? And, sometimes, there will still be oil there, but then the agreement is that there can be no more technical means applied to it, and we're all going to agree that this one is done as far as what we can do."
Oil continues to wash onto shorelines in Louisiana, reported the Times-Picayune on Monday. Four large fish kills have occurred in the past two weeks off the coast of Louisiana, and while it is suspected the gulf oil spill is the contributing factor, that suspicion has not yet been confirmed reported WWLTV.
CBS News has downplayed the size of the oil spill, saying the spill was equal to spilling three beers in the Superdome. While the brief comparison paid lip service to the still-unknown costs of the spill, CBS downplayed those costs saying "... But compared to the vast size of the Gulf of Mexico, the spill is extremely small."
More about Gulf of Mexico, Oil spill, Digging beaches rule, Florida, Shoreline cleanup
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