Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Biden' Time: Tuesday June 29 BP Oil Spill Update

1. Alex.

The National Hurricane Center still is predicting tropical storm Alex will make landfall considerably to the west of Pensacola Beach, somewhere along the Texas-Mexico border. It likely will arrive there at the start of the Fourth of July weekend. The storm reached near hurricane strength, as of 10 am EDT Tuesday.

2. Buffett Concert Delayed.

Jimmy Buffett's free Alabama beach concert has been postponed to Sunday, July 11. The expressed concern is that soon-to-be Hurricane Alex may cause "large and destructive waves" which might swamp the temporary beach stage planned for Orange Beach.

Although the storm likely will make landfall well to the West of Orange Beach, Alabama, it has a large and growing wind field which also could dump a fair amount of rain as far east as the central Gulf Coast. Country Music Television, which had planned to cable-cast and net-cast a 90-minute portion of the event, says it is still working on a revised schedule.

3. Joe Biden in Pensacola today.

Vice-president Joe Biden will be in Pensacola today. He is scheduled to "speak to the media" at Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS).

Accompanying the vice-president, the Mobile Register reports, will be Biden will be joined by NationalIncident Commander Admiral Thad Allen and NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco. Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who is now running as an Independent for the vacant U.S. Senate seat, changed his plans yesterday and will accompany the vice-president, the St. Petersburg Times "Buzz" blog reports.

A personal visit to Pensacola Beach is not precluded, but for now such a thing isn't on the announced schedule.

Current weather conditions may govern whether he makes any other local stops. It's overcast this morning and chances of rain in Pensacola are pegged at 60% today.

According to the original White House announcement, Biden is here to "assess efforts to counter the BP oil spill." The most recent issue of GOSPORT, the local Navy base newspaper, reported "little new oil" was found near N.A.S. last week and "the oil has been kept away from the delicate ecosystem around the base."
[O]il operations within sight of the base continue. BP has hired hundreds of contract workers in response to the April 20 drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people.

For the past week some of those BP workers have been seen around the base, either skimming out in the waters or picking up pieces of oil from the shore.

The oil recovery process around the base has been going as good as can be expected, Fenters said. During a recent three to four-day period, BP contract skimmers were able to pick up only about two barrels of oil after skimming an area three miles out from the base [Emergency Manager Burt] Fenters said. There was not a lot of the thick oil out there or closer to the base, but tar balls can still be found, Fenters said.

4. Pensacola Beach Health Warning.

Dr. John Lanza's county health department at long last yesterday issued a health advisory that warns beach goers "immediately" not enter the water along an eight mile stretch from "the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier west to Pensacola Pass," including all of Ft. Pickens.

The warning came "in response to a report by the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center of extensive oil sheen, oil mousse and tar balls." Click here for the full advisory.

There's no telling how they got that one by "Dr." Buck Lee. But, as another quack doctor, Moliere's woodcutter, says:
The dead always keep a civil tongue, they are very decent, indeed. You will never hear them make a complaint against the doctor who killed them.
What's peculiar about this is that the county health department warning is not based on any water quality testing of its own. Instead, the health department says it is relying on visual reports from the local Emergency Operations Center. So, what's the human health basis for stopping at the Fishing Pier?

It is true that surfboards are confined to an area west of the fishing bridge. But it's not at all clear the water there is qualitatively any different than on the east side. Certainly, the county health department has not yet publicly released any reliable water sampling that would demonstrate a substantial difference.

If you're going to have a county health department, wouldn't it be better to have one that bases its decisions on what is revealed by medical and environmental science rather than a game of "telephone" with other agencies?


While we were gone, Peter Greenberg published a useful, clear-eyed article for those who feel the urge to volunteer to clean up the oil mess along the Gulf Coast. Some highlights:
  • Don’t plan a trip to the Gulf Coast solely to volunteer.
  • Volunteer positions with local non-profit organizations "tend to be administrative, like data entry and research." And, we might add, they're mostly clerical and gopher, unless you bring special skills to the Gulf Coast.
  • The BP oil catastrophe is "evolving" so there will be plenty of opportunities later. Indeed, unless we miss our guess today's ten year olds may well be filling volunteer needs when they're twenty-five.
  • Volunteers assigned to clean-up or animal sanctuary work will face serious health hazards Consult a physician before putting yourself into situations your body will hate you for.
  • Locally, "The Gulf Islands National Seashore Visitor Information Center is accepting volunteers who can make a three-hour commitment once a week for three months:
  • Volunteers work in four different locations, including three beaches: Johnson Beach, Langdon Beach, and Opal Beach, and around the piers in the Fort Pickens area. Prospective volunteers attend a training session with the park service to learn how to communicate with visitors.
  • Never, ever "pay for so-called 'spill training' of any kind -- scammers will charge a fee for non-existent training on how to clean wildlife.
  • Avoid solicitations for donations to purchase items such as liquid soap, towels and money; BP is picking up that tab.
Greenberg also provides some useful phone numbers and addresses for those who simply can't bide their time and insist on volunteering.

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