We're still on the road, but we read that Buck bucked recommendations federal health officials and leaned on the county health department to open
lifted the health advisory on Pensacola Beach early Friday on the advice of
W.A. "Buck" Lee, Santa Rosa Island Authority executive director. Lee said he
made the recommendation based on a visual inspection.
As Kimberly Blair reports, Lee has decided to fly only the 'yellow' flag for 'caution' rather than red flags for 'danger.'
"And that means you need to be careful where you step," Lee is quoted as saying. "Just be careful and have a good time."
Tough to do when everyone else except Buck Lee sees "oil chips, tar balls and submerged oil slicks" on the beach and detects "the odor of petroleum."
Kimberly Blair, again:
[P]eople complained about getting a petroleum jelly-like substance on them from sand that was tainted brown.What in the world are county health officials thinking? They're content to rely on Buck Lee's medical advice in guarding the public's health? That's an oily medical decision they will come to regret.
Swimmers who did venture into the water questioned whether it was really safe to wade, swim and play in the Gulf, especially when they had to walk through a line of tar balls and stay clear of skimmers scooping up oil just 25 and 50 feet from the shore.
"I only went into the water up to my ankles. That's as far as I wanted to go," said Joe Chambers, 28, of West Pensacola as he scrubbed off oily residue from himself and his son, Ethan, 4, in the public showers at Casino Beach. "It doesn't smell like the beach. It smells like a gas station. There are no fish in the water. There's nothing alive in the water. I don't know how public officials can just look at the water and make a call to reopen it for swimming."
Carol Doster of Grand Isle, Miss., said her son Dallas, 12, was frightened by the oil that streaked his legs and arms after a five-minute swim in the Gulf on Friday. "It won't rub off," Doster said.
Buck Lee is the general manager (he likes to call himself "executive director") of the Santa Rosa Island Authority, which governs Pensacola Beach. He's a former county commissioner with lots of political experience, but no particular education for the job in management, public health, or medicine.
He didn't sleep in a Holiday Inn last night, so far as we know, but he does have a history of inviting the public to swim in filthy water. And, he's also good at drawing poor performance reviews.
Here's a suggestion: when everyone except Buck Lee sees oil tarballs on the beach, and many are getting them stuck to their legs and arms, maybe the county health department should test the water, first, before opening it to public use. And, before taking Buck Lee's word for anything he claims he doesn't see, give him an eye examination, would you?
Back on the road -- where even the Monfort Lane is safer than Pensacola Beach.