BP spokesman: "We're here for the duration" - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

BP spokesman: "We're here for the duration"

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) – Boats, jet skis and fishermen flocked to the point Friday afternoon. The popular spot is no stranger to activity, but the reason many visited Friday was far from routine.

A fisherman sat on the pier attempting to catch as many fish as he could before the oil slick's possible approach.

"We're kind of scared that in the coming days we won't be able to [get out on the water]," said Pascagoula resident Greg Flurry as he and a friend readied jet skis for a ride. "Now we're trying to have a little fun while we can."

Rose Smith and her family walked along Pascagoula's beach nearby. Like so many others, she worries about the Coast and those who depend on it.

"People going out here wildlife fishing and stuff, you know it's really going to hurt them," said Smith. "And that's some of their living, you know."

Smith, who works at the Pascagoula shipyard, said she's also concerned the oil's potential effect on industry, although she said she didn't have an estimate for what that effect would be.

Gulf Coast communities are so closely tied to the shoreline; BP officials said the company has made addressing local concerns a major part of their response. In addition to establishing staging grounds, the company has also rented out office space to set up community outreach initiatives. From the offices, they manage potential damage claims, answer questions about the company's efforts to fight the oil spill, and help organize public participation in the company's onshore efforts.

"Folks have a lot of questions. The incident is causing a lot of concern," said Van Chao. "We have a claims office where the folks call in to that 800 number, and they set up an appointment and come on in here."

City officials said along with their staging areas, the company was also allowed to set up shop at 710 Delmas Avenue without going through the usual permitting process in light of the emergency. 

On Friday, the office processed nearly 50 general questions from the public, and 30 potential damage claims.  Company officials answer questions about the operation, and about opportunities to help. 

Those include volunteer training and the popular 'vessel of opportunity' program that trains and pays commercial fishermen to help fight the oil spill, on an as-needed basis.

"We've had probably well over 1,000 folks train so far through the program," said Van Chao. "Many of them have already submitted contracts."

Van Chao said the company is prepared to keep the office doors open a while.

"We're here for the duration I think," he said.

The next vessel of opportunity training session is Saturday morning…at 8 a-am at the Ocean Springs Civic Center.

The following is a list of oil-related hotline numbers released by the City of Pascagoula late Friday:

  • Hotline phone numbers for volunteer service opportunities.
    • Request Volunteer information: 1 (866) 448-5816
    • Submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity 1 (281) 366-5511
    • Submit alternative response technology, services or products 1(281) 366-5511
    • HAZWOPER Training: Ron Williams (228) 762-0670 or (228) 990-4564

Hotline phone numbers to report possible damages due to the oil spill.  

  • Animals covered in oil: 1 (866) 557-1404 (leave message)
  • Submit a claim for damages: 1 (800) 440-0858
  • Oil on shore line: 1 (866) 448-5816

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly