Workers remove 4 million pounds of oil from barrier islands - - The News for South Mississippi

Workers remove 4 million pounds of oil from barrier islands


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

HORN ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - Oil clean-up crews have returned to Mississippi's barrier islands following an 11 day break for the holidays. Since the oil spill, workers have removed around four million pounds of oil from Horn, Ship, Petit Bois and Cat Islands.

Weather has been a significant factor lately. With a strong southerly wind in their face, a team of contract workers marched forward with sifters and buckets on Friday afternoon.

Just like on the mainland beaches, much of the work on the islands is old fashioned, by hand.

"The hand crews are manually picking up the tar balls, sifting through, put it in buckets. It goes from there to super sacks. And we relay the super sacks off the island with our landing craft boats," said Supervisor Steve Mangum.

Work boats ferry supplies and employees to and from the islands, while parked barges serve as fuel and re-loading headquarters. Daily plans must be flexible.

"When we leave shore coming out here every day, we have a plan. That plan changes a lot of times by the time we get here," said Mangum.

Two things having a significant impact on the island are things the workers can't control:  Weather and wildlife.

In winter, the often changing weather becomes a critical factor.

"With everything we do. From the actual work on the beach, to getting crews in and out.  A huge safety factor," Mangum said.

He said the strong winter winds actually excavate the oil.

"The northerly wind seems to do the uncovering. Southerly winds appear to be covering it up."

Then there's the wildlife.

"Of course, the turtles back early on that were nesting, we had to deal with that. Got areas with birds from time to time, concentrated on the ends of the islands," said Mangum.

Some oil in the more sensitive island areas is being left alone.

Ray Mellick is BP Spokesman for Mississippi.

"A lot of what the northside of Horn and even the ponds is. The park service seems to think it will bio degrade if it's left alone. And they think it will be safer in the long run. But we are monitoring it," he said.

Petit Bois has seen the most oil in recent days. Work crews removed more than 11,000 pounds from that island Thursday, compared to 3800 pounds on Horn Island.

Oil collected from the barrier islands is transported by truck to a landfill in central Mississippi.

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