June 23rd – 8:18PM
Pensacola, FL – It’s been just over two weeks since we were last in Pensacola and visiting there today, the changes could not have been more evident. Just two weeks ago, the beach was host to a number of tourists still eager to get in their time at the beach, regardless of the scattering of tar balls they shared it with. While the beaches were busy today too, it was with a decidedly different crowd. Alongside the cleanup crews scouring the beach were hundreds of people gathered to catch a glimpse of the oil that had been seemingly dumped onto their shores. Local residents and members of the media stood together slack-jawed as they surveyed the extent of the damage.
Endless puddles of thick crude oil replaced the tar balls of weeks ago as neon-clad cleanup workers now stood where beach-goers had just days before. Boats lined the coast in hopes of catching a portion of the oil before it reached the beach and Coast Guard helicopters hovered low overhead, constantly scouting.
Certainly the cleanup efforts are full steam ahead in Pensacola, yet a few questions stand arduously in my mind. Why do BP and the Unified Command continue to wait until oil is covering the beaches before employing clumsy and inefficient cleanup efforts? Are the underpaid and undertrained workers that currently comprise the majority of the cleanup effort really the best option? Watching them shovel sandy clumps of oil into plastic bags and leave the sand behind them stained black with oil, it doesn’t take a scientist or an engineer to figure out that there must be a better way.
It may already be two months into the spill, but with no end in sight, it’s fair to believe that this is just one of many days like it for the beaches of Pensacola and those all along the Gulf coast. If the leak continues and the currents remain as they have (and are projected to), this cleanup will be ongoing all summer and beyond and one must hope that in time, a better method can be found and utilized. We’ve seen locals from around the region take proactive steps to help with the cleanup efforts and tomorrow we’ll be onboard with a local boat captain as he tests a boom that he hopes will be more oil-absorbent than the ones currently in place. The latter have been widely criticized as being better suited for calmer waters, not those with a chop in which the crashing waves will push oil over the floating boom and rendering them largely ineffective. Ingenuity like this is a helping hand, but in the end it’s an losing battle until larger scale solutions can come into play.
Certainly, witnessing this devastation and the underwhelming attempts to counter its effects is disheartening and while the hard-work on the part of those involved with the cleanup is reassuring and should be greatly appreciated, I fear that the problem lies higher up the chain of command, where the decisions are made. In the end, that is where the fate of these shores and the people that live on them truly lies.
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