BP spokesman: Beach crews are "amazing people"

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They are the front lines of the ongoing oil clean up. Hundreds of workers, hired by BP contractors, are scouring the beach for tar balls and cleaning rocks on the jetties.

The task of cleaning 26 miles of sand beach in Harrison County began more than four months ago.

You've seen them on the beach, buckets and shovels in hand, wearing protective gear.  Months after the first oil residue washed ashore in Harrison County, work crews are still at it.

"We like doing it. We're trying to get all of it, as much as we can," said Connie Michael of Hattiesburg, as she reached down to pick up another small tar ball from the sandy shore.

Michael is a part of the oil clean-up brigade; combing the beach with sifting shovels and plastic buckets.

A favorable tide makes the enduring assignment a bit easier.

"Right now, the tide is out and it really helps," Michael explains. "You can identify it better than you can looking in the water. We're not allowed to actually get in the water, but you can really spot it good now that the tide is out."

Lately, they're not spotting that much. While large oil patties were common two months ago, these days coin-sized tar balls are the most likely discoveries.

"If it's a lot of oil, sometimes we'll work longer hours. Right now, we're on eight hours a day," she said.

BP's ongoing promise is: We'll be here as long as it takes. So, just how long are we talking?

"That's anyone's guess. You know, we are bound by some environmental things out on the islands, to clean only so deep. But here, we clean when we see it. We promise to be here until it's gone, and we're going to stick with that," said BP spokesman, Greg Knox.

While multiple crews comb the sand, others scrub rocks on the jetty beside the Courthouse Road boat ramps.

"They're actually picking up rocks and using some absorbent materials and scrubbing the rocks clean and getting any oil or materials off of them, then putting them back in place," said Knox.

Early Tuesday afternoon there were roughly 75 clean-up workers on the 26 miles of sand beach in Harrison County. They were working from five different locations in Biloxi and Gulfport.

"They're just amazing people doing incredible things to return these beaches back to their original state," said Knox.

People like Connie Michael, who says she's happy to help.

"It's good teams out here. And we just stick together and make the best of it," she said.

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