Lt. Governor surprised by amount of oil debris on Ship Island

SHIP ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

SHIP ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - More than three months after oil stopped gushing into the Gulf from the blown out BP well, evidence of that oil can still be found on the state's barrier islands. Lt. Governor Phil Bryant toured Ship Island Monday to get a first hand look at clean-up efforts.

On the ride out to the island, the Lt. Governor was briefed on clean-up efforts.  A short time later, he got to see it for himself. More than 30 workers were scouring the western tip of Ship Island, looking for tarballs and patties. And they weren't hard to find.

Lt. Governor Bryant even picked one up for personal inspection.  He was hoping for better news.

"I didn't realize that we still had that much work left to do," Bryant said. "We were hoping that it was going to be isolated, small tarballs or patties. But you're right, there are some large areas here. But the good thing about it is they are on the surface. You can reach down and collect them very easily, they're non toxic."

The man in charge of the clean-up on Ship Island, Russell Ross, believes this will be a process that takes months, if not years.

"We are finding more and more and more oil. And this is like the fifth time we have come through here," Ross said. "It's going to be an ongoing thing for a while."

Even several months after the oil stopped spilling in the Gulf of Mexico, it's hard to tell how much oil is left on Ship Island. And that's why a massive test is about to get underway, funded by BP.

Melvin Castillo is the BP operations director.

"We're about to conduct a pretty big survey for the National Park Service," Castillo said.  "We're going to do a scat surveillance by digging about 6,500 holes to catalog what's underneath."

Despite the continued presence of oil on the beaches of the island, Bryant is optimistic about the future.

"It's going to take some time, but we're going to get it done," Bryant said.

BP officials again stressed during the tour that the company will be here as long as it takes to remove most of the oil from the shores of the barrier islands. But they also said that some might have to be left behind, because digging it up could cause more harm than good to the islands' fragile eco-systems.

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