Six months after the spill, coast life still not back to normal

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Wednesday, October 20, marks six months since the DeepWater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers on the rig and spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.

The spill is considered the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and launched one of the largest oil clean-up efforts this country has ever seen. Though a lot of the oil that washed ashore has been cleaned up, hundreds of coast residents are still feeling the impact of the Coastal Crisis that began 184 days ago.

The conveyer belts at one Bayou Caddy seafood processing plant are usually full of shrimp and turning this time of year. But owner Keath Ladner says after the oil crisis first began, he has watched his business drop off to nothing.

"My business is still closed," said Keath Ladner, owner of GulfShores Sea Products. Ladner said that harsh reality still shocks him. "I thought maybe three months, four tops. But right this moment, it's terrible. I have never seen it this bad."

He said six months after the spill, we've yet to shake the perception that Gulf seafood is tainted.

"We still have an image problem. The perception over all of the nation that we still have problems with the seafood. They're not sure if it's tainted or not. Many people believe it might be best to wait for a while, let things heal before they decide to buy Gulf seafood again."

Brian Adam, Director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency, echoed Ladner's words.

"You still see shrimpers not shrimping, and the processing plants aren't doing as well. So we do have economic damage throughout this, and there's going to be with the seafood industry."

Adam said although the seafood image problem still exists, there has been a lot of progress in cleaning up the oil on the beaches.

"Unfortunately, they clean up every day, and the next day there's more tar balls. So it's not like they aren't cleaning them."

BP's Mississippi Branch Operations Director, Melvin Castillo, agreed.

"We've made a lot of progress in the last six months. Today we're still recovering tar balls that wash up daily. But the majority of the beach looks great. Not a lot of new oil coming up."

Because there are fewer tar balls, BP has fewer workers on the beaches.

"The Barrier Islands have our attention right now. There are four islands out there. We have, probably, close to a thousand people involved in that clean up effort. It's going very well. We have recovered a lot of oil, but there is more to do still," said Castillo.

As for how much longer clean-up efforts will be needed, Castillo told WLOX News, "That's a tough one that nobody knows the answer to. The answer that we give to that question is we will be here until the last tar ball is picked up."

BP officials say oil had little impact on the sensitive marsh areas along the coast. The ones affected will likely not be cleaned for fear of doing more damage to the marsh. They say Mother Nature will clean the wetlands naturally.

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