Thousands of potential volunteers sign up to clean oil - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Thousands of potential volunteers sign up to clean oil

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – Carl Cone can't stand to watch the massive oil slick descend on Mississippi's coastline.

"It feels like impending doom," said the avid fisherman.  "And there's nothing we can do about it."

Cone is donating his time manning the phone lines for the Pascagoula River Audubon Center. And he's busy.  In the past day, the center estimates more than 500 people have called to volunteer, and more than 500 have signed up with the organization online.  That's a roster of more than 1,000 people who are ready to undergo training to help clean wildlife and beaches that could be affected by the spill. 

The response has been so overwhelming the organization is directing volunteers to its website, http://pascagoulariver.audubon.org/issues-action/oil-spill-efforts.  That website holds a link to a national effort to recruit people willing to help.

"We started this because we're anticipating a need for volunteers," said Mozart Mark Dedeaux with the Pascagoula Audubon Center.  "Because, an individual must be trained to either clean wildlife, or even go on the beach to clean up after an oil spill.  The crude oil is highly toxic."

Center officials said they're still waiting on specifics about training classes from cleanup officials. 

The waiting game continued Friday night in Ocean Springs, where Melanie Allen and her neighbor Don Abrams are also organizing volunteers through the website they created, http://www.oilspillvolunteers.com/.

Their website isn't affiliated with a single group, but instead is designed to work as a database for various organizations who would be involved if a cleanup is necessary. 

"Soon we will have training information," said Allen.  "Our volunteers will be sorted on whether they have boats, and whether they want to participate in wildlife cleanup or beach cleanup."

Allen said memories from Hurricane Katrina prompted her and Abrams to start the site.  She said she remembers the gap between the storm and the aid that followed, and she hopes organizing in advance will help response efforts mobilize more quickly.

"I think being organized and proactive is the best thing that we can offer, as far as being prepared for this awful tragedy," said Allen.

In one day, Allen said more than 1,600 people have joined the database. That means combined, the two groups have amassed well over 2,500 volunteers.

Organizers from both said they're thrilled with the response and hope even more people will sign up, because they just don't know how much manpower they'll need.

"It depends on when they shut that thing down," said Dedeaux of the oil leak.  "If they don't stop the leak, and it goes on for weeks and weeks, it could be something we've never seen here in the US."

The City of Biloxi is also signing up volunteers at http://www.biloxi.ms.us/Volunteer.asp.

To report contaminated wildlife, call the Oiled Bird Hotline at 1-866-557-1401 and give the following information:

1.     The exact location of the animal/bird
2.     your name
3.     your phone number
4.     your address

Hancock County Board of Supervisors' President Rocky Pullman is asking residents in the low lining areas or with waterfront properties take photographic images or video of their property and surrounding vegetation.

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