Secretary Mabus focuses on long term oil effects

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - By Elizabeth Vowell – email

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - "What do we do next? What do we do when the well is killed and all the attention goes some where else?" asked Naval Secretary Ray Mabus.

That was the secretary's main focus at the town hall meeting in Bay St. Louis Saturday; however, before long term recovery can begin, coastal residents are still faced with immediate problems.

"I'm not a politician. I'm not a scientist, but what's going on out there on our waters, is abnormal," one boat captain told Mabus.

There have been eight town hall meetings, and officials are hearing the same themes: frustration and worry about oil clean up and claims.

"It is inefficient. The purpose of meetings like this is to make it better, to keep pushing BP to do their job better," said Rep. Gene Taylor (D) Fourth District.

The questions all seem to be the same:

  • What about mental health?
  • What about my claim?
  • Is the seafood really safe?

The meeting had representatives from every organization involved in clean up, to provide answers.

"We don't want to say anything that's not true. We operate based on fact, and the facts are that everything we've tested so far has come back clean. And we feel like it's very safe to eat and very healthy for you," said DMR Executive Director Dr. Bill Walker in response to questions about seafood.

However, with the final well kill in sight and focus shifting from tar balls to long term effects, Mabus said it is has to be the local governments that lead the way in long term recovery.

"While this is a gulf coast issue, it's a national concern. America needs a healthy gulf. America needs a healthy ecosystem. American needs a healthy economy here on the coast, and America needs a healthy community here on the coast," said Mabus who was charged with overseeing the coastal recovery.

Mabus also said he understands the frustrations of today, but that the government will also begin to prepare for the problems of tomorrow.

"Anything that is done long term has to have as it's basis good science, good testing and reliable information," said Mabus.

The secretary will present a report to President Barack Obama within a few weeks with his recommendations for long term planning.

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