As the BP oil spill story has faded from the headlines, it also risks fading from our memories, but the story is still all too ever-present for many of the residents of the Gulf Coast. Julie Dermansky has been steadily working on stories down there on the some of the forgotten victims and the continuing impact the spill has had on their lives. If change is to come out of these tragedies, it is critical that a disaster such as the oil spill does not simply become the story of the day, but that it lives on to continue to remind us how different things need to be. – Peter
I got a call from Grace Welch asking me to come to Terribone Parish to see the oil BP is leaving behind as the clean-up efforts to an end. Welch is a Pointe-au-Chien Indian from Pointe-au-Chien, LA. The community has taken a bad blow from the BP oil spill since most people make a living from fishing, shrimping, crabbing and oyster harvesting. Though their ancestral fishing grounds weren’t as badly polluted as Bay Jimmy in Plaquaemines Parish or the beaches near Grand Isle, the marsh was fouled by BP oil. The marsh grass along the shores in Lake Chien and Lake Raccaurci that got coated in oil in May has died. Today a gooey swath of oil lines the shore. BP never cleaned this area. Some boom was put out after the oil had already gotten into the marsh and then was later removed. That was the extent of the clean up, Russell Dar Dar, an elder tribe member told me.
A few members of the tribe are still employed by BP in Terribone Parish, working off Cocodrie where they are removing an oil drenched absorbent boom that has washed up on marshland. Once this boom is picked up, the clean up in Terribone Parish will be over. BP claims it will do the marsh more harm than good to clean it up. Where is their scientific justification coming from? Could it really be that leaving thick oil on the shore that has already killed the grass, to sink deeper into the soil, is a good thing? I watched birds hunting shrimp , sticking their beaks into the oily goop to catch their prey. Maybe a little oil isn’t a bad thing?
A company called Gulfsavers has a solution that is not invasive to the march. Their product, made with oil-eating microbes, would help speed up the natural decomposing process. They have been unable to get BP to buy their product and are hoping enough donations will come in so that they can get some of their product in place and do their part in cleaning the marshland.
Dar Dar and I watched a shrimp boat at work just a few yards from the oil coated shore, in waters recently re-opened to fishing. We both wonder who would want to eat those shrimp if they saw the spot from which they came. Dar Dar has collected oysters that are being tested by the the Bucket Brigade so he can decide whether or not he will resume oyster harvesting for the Thanksgiving season, but he is worried about the future. He no longer trusts what he is told. The BP oil disaster taught him the power of lies: If they are repeated often enough, people believe them. He decided to go by what he sees, and is having his own testing done.
To see Julie’s complete story on the Pointe-au Chien Indians for the Washington Post, click here