Cat Island clean-up crews making progress

CAT ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - About two dozen clean-up workers spent the day Monday picking up small tar balls along the eastern shore of Cat Island. The contractor hired by BP to clean that barrier island has a command center set-up on a barge that's anchored along the north side of the island.

On this week marking the one year anniversary of the oil spill, WLOX News accompanied DEQ representatives on a tour of Cat Island.

As our boat approached from the north, it was easy to spot the beauty of this barrier island. Cat Island is unique because such a large portion of the island is privately owned.

Island houses rebuilt since Katrina can be seen along the canal that cuts through this picturesque getaway.

As he gave a quick tour, Cat Island caretaker Walter Gaudin admits he's loved living here for 11 years.

"It's called serenity," said the elderly man, a big smile across his face.

We found the clean-up crews on the eastern shore. As they've done for many months, workers scoured the sand picking up tar balls.

"Right now on the east phase we have small tar balls. We've collected all the tar mats that were visible, that we could see. And over on the western tip of the island we still have some mats that we're recovering over there," said clean-up supervisor William Pitts.

The shaking machine is called a sand guppy. It sifts the sand, separating the weathered oil.

"Shakes it up and lets the sand fall through and keeps the little pieces on top," said a worker, as he demonstrated the machine.

DEQ supervisor Nick Gatian is pleased with the progress he sees on Cat Island.

"It's been impacted about the same as the other islands. So, they continue to work at it and do the assessments on a routine basis to find where the material is at. And they've got the crews out there, as we saw today, picking it up," he said.

"We pull different amounts off daily. It really depends on the area we're working in and what's uncovered at the time, what we're able to collect," Pitts explained.

Cat Island's caretaker is happy with what's been happening here.

"Great, great.  They're doing a real good job," said Gaudin.

There's no easy answer at to how long the clean-up will continue. The DEQ said until oil material is no longer washing ashore.

"Feel like we're fortunate. Much less than the worst case scenario that we could have had," said Gatian.

BP recently purchased a portion of Cat Island from private owners. The area bought by the oil company includes that eastern shore, where the clean-up crews were working this day.

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