Fishermen busy "pulling boom" in Jackson County

MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It is the next step in the coastal crisis response:  Work crews on the water are busy removing thousands of feet of oil boom.

In Mississippi alone, nearly 300,000 feet of containment boom has already been pulled from the water.

They gathered before dawn at O'Sullivan's Marina for a safety briefing and pep talk. Twenty boats with BP's vessels of opportunity program are now working from that Pascagoula marina.

As the sun rises, workers were already pulling boom just east of Chevron.

"It's going to be collected and decontaminated. Then it will be assessed. They'll figure out if it can be re-used and placed in a staging area for possible re-deployment. Or if it's just too damaged it will be recycled," said Kyle Niemi, Chief Petty Officer with the U.S. Coast Guard.

With the leak now capped, the boom itself poses a problem. It's a hazard to navigation, plus with hurricane season heating-up a storm could toss boom into the sensitive marshes, damaging the very areas the boom was put out to protect.

"It's good news if they're cleaning up this boom and removing everything. That means we don't have any oil out here. So, maybe the environment will get back to normal," said Paul Hopper, who runs an oyster shop in East Jackson County.

Despite the seemingly good news with the clean-up, he still worries about the fishermen.

"The guys that have caught oysters, they don't know when they're going back to work. And the shrimpers the same way. So sure, the money's helping them out a bunch. It might have to tide them over for a long time," said Hopper.

Longtime fisherman Bob Hoeffler is among the workers removing the oil boom.  He said he's happy to be part of the VoO program, making some money. But he admits, he'd much rather be crabbing.

As he pulled so-called "pom pom" boom into his fishing boat, he couldn't help but worry about the recovery of the gulf waters.

"I think it's going to take a long time. I really do.  That's just my opinion," said the fisherman.

For now, these fishermen will do what they can for the ongoing clean-up; hoping the leak is stopped for good and the waters can return to normal.

The old Coast Guard Station on the Pascagoula River has been converted into an oil boom "decontamination station." The boom that's removed from area waters is taken there, where it's cleaned and recycled whenever possible.

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