Rep. Taylor says going ballistic about MS oil got results - - The News for South Mississippi

Rep. Taylor says going ballistic about MS oil got results


By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - In the week since he called oil clean up in the Mississippi Sound an "effort in futility," Congressman Gene Taylor says a lot of progress has been made. Rep. Taylor's rant against the Unified Command largely centered on there being too few skimmers and no way of communicating with boats in the water.

On Saturday, he said much has been accomplished but there is still more that needs to be done. The EPA Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology flight crew has the technology on board to detect oil in the water not visible to the naked eye.

They say the advantage is that when skimmers are sent to a location to clean up oil they can be sure oil is what they'll find.

"You see moss. You see debris. Then you see oil," said Paul Fletcher, crew member. "You really can't tell exactly which is which. The infrared can look at it and say, 'Yes. This is oil.' That's what we're here for is to tell them where the oil is. Tell them how thick it is because you can't skim sheen but you can skim oil."

Officials say the EPA flights go out every day about five hours at a time. With a second plane expected to be airborne some time next week, Congressman Gene Taylor hopes even more subsurface oil can be spotted and removed quicker.

"When they first learned to do it, they had to land and run it through a computer," said Rep. Taylor. "Took about a two hour lag. So if you've got a two knot current or two or three knot current, then that patch of oil could have moved as much as four miles. So what we want to do is get it instantaneous. This is where you need to be right now."

Flights started back in April, but it wasn't until Taylor stepped in this week that Unified Command began using the collected data. Taylor says after much criticism he is now able to offer some praise to leaders in the clean up.

Rep. Taylor said, "Everybody is talking to each other. The planes above can now communicate with vessels on the deck. They're getting more capable vessels that can stay out there in bad weather without anybody getting hurt.

"Again, it's not the way I want it just yet but, it's going in the right direction. I just wish they had done it without me having to go ballistic. But if going ballistic is what got some guys off their rear ends, then I'm glad I went ballistic. "

Congressman Taylor says he hopes the additional EPA plane will allow crews to fly night missions so there are no surprise oil slicks in the morning. 

The flight crew says a new twist on some old technology is what's helping them fight the oil. The equipment's original purpose is to detect fallout from weapons of mass destruction. In late April an EPA scientist wrote a new software program so that same equipment could be used for detecting oil.

Dr. Robert Kroutil says he believes with so many scientists involved in the oil spill other advances are on the way.

"The scientific community is very excited to be able to help people on the Gulf Region," said Kroutil. "To be able to come down here and work of some of these very serious problems and understand really what the issues are from a science point of view. Provide that information to state and local officials so that they can help them. Provide better information for them. I think there's going to be a continuing set of developments that occur in the next six months to generally improve the capabilities that we have to detect oil on the surface of the water."

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