Program for sub-surface oil starts Thursday

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - By Krystal Allan – bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - A few miles south of the Pass Christian Harbor, testing is already underway for submerged oil. Crews with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Environmental Quality and Food and Drug Administration were on board for the tests. A crew member with MDEQ preps a fishing reel line that will be lowered in the water for testing.

"They're attaching some of the sorbant pad to this rig (fishing reel) and then their going to drop it down through the water column," said Joe Jewell, Department of Marine Resources.

The pad is a small square shape piece of material. Along with the sorbant pads, the crew also took water samples and tissue samples from fish and shrimp.

"The sorbant pad is going down about six, six and half feet. It'll be in the water for several minutes.  It's been lowered to the bottom," Jewell said.

Jewell said there were reports of black oil in this area south of the Pass Christian Harbor, and the reports were followed up with tests using methods like the sorbant pads.

Similar tests will be used for a new program kicking off Thursday focusing on submersed oil. The Mississippi Sound will be divided up into grids and tested. Some of the boats with the Vessels of Opportunity program will help in the search.

On this day, the crew went out on the water for a couple of trips.

"We've been on this station for about two or three hours today, and we've done several analysis. We've not visibly detected any subsurface oil," said Jewell.

Though the pad appeared to have come out clean, it's still packaged and sent off for testing.

"We've taken a lot of samples. We've done a lot of testing, but we realize that that's not dissuading the public of their concerns and fears about seafood safety. It's not enough, but we're willing to do whatever it takes to re-assure the public. I think a lot of it is outreach to the public, and we can do a better job with that. And we will do a better job with that," said Jewell.

While Jewell realizes doubts still hover over the safety of seafood, he said the testing will continue to determine what's actually beneath the surface.

The Department of Marine Resources, Environmental Quality and FDA were on board for the testing. In response to the criticism from the fishing community, Jewell said trips have been planned tomorrow and next week with fisherman in search for submerged oil.

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