South MS leaders: We need better communication about oil crisis - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

South MS leaders: We need better communication about oil crisis

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - BP representatives and members of the incident command team met Wednesday afternoon with more than 100 elected and community leaders from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

During the 90 minute session at DMR headquarters in Biloxi, participants were updated on the "working plan" that's in place to keep the oil away from our waters and shoreline.

Local government leaders emphasized three key points: BP needs to hire more Mississippi residents, there needs to be much better communication with local leaders and you'd better think twice about plans to dispose of any oil-dispersant waste in South Mississippi landfills.

"And we are committed to fighting this material away from our coastline. We don't want that stuff inside our barrier islands. We don't want it at our barrier islands."

DMR director Dr. William Walker assured community leaders there's a comprehensive plan in place to deal with every aspect of this oil crisis. He reminded the group this is not a post-Katrina response. BP is fully responsible.

"And BP has stepped up to the plate and said we're responsible for this. We're going to take care of this. We're going to protect you to the extent we can and where that protection fails, we're going to clean you up," said Dr. Walker.

BP's spokesperson apologized for the fact "we're here at all."

"Our goal is to keep oil out of the waters of Mississippi. And if we are not able to do that, we will be prepared to mount a defense near shore and on shore," said BP representative Maureen Johnson.

BP has amassed an army of workers and set up training centers and equipment holding areas across the coast.

Along with preparing teams to help with the expected clean up, the Coast Guard spokesman said oil surveillance efforts are ramping up.

"Aerial by helicopters and sub surface. We're taking commercial vessels of opportunity out there and they're dragging boom under the surface to see if there's any oil down there," said the Coast Guard's Scott Schaefer.

Plans to dispose of oil waste in area landfills raised the ire of several South Mississippi leaders.

"You're telling me that you propose to put whatever this dispersant is, that we do not know what the life of it is, into a sub title "D" landfill that is meant for waste from Harrison County?" said Rep. Diane Peranich.

"We will monitor for dispersants. It will be profiled in the landfill and if anything is found to be not suitable to go in a sub "D" landfill, there's another methodology," said Richard Harrell with the state DEQ.

"I do want you to know that we are, both here in Mississippi and in Mobile and in Louisiana, working our hearts out as a company to try and make this right for you," said BP's Johnson.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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