On Day 74 of spill, Mississippi is still unprepared for oil

Biloxi Sun HeraldJuly 2, 2010 

BILOXI, Miss. — A new long-range government projection that more oil will hit the Mississippi Coast for at least the next few months doesn't surprise Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame. What does surprise him, 74 days into the BP oil disaster, is the lack of preparation and protection.

"As we speak, there is no more protection for the Bay of St. Louis than we had just a couple of weeks after it started,” Fillingame said Friday, as he watched BP-contracted boat crews in the bay only beginning preparations for large “oceangoing” boom that has proved more reliable for stopping oil than the flimsy, ineffective stuff that’s been strung along state beaches bays and bayous for months.

A 120-day NOAA model of the oil’s movement released Friday, conducted only after an irate congressman demanded it, shows an “81 percent to 100 percent” probability the area from eastern Louisiana to Pensacola will continue to be hit with oil and tar.

Harrison County Supervisor Kim Savant shares Fillingame’s frustration, and now believes the lack of preparation and prevention — heavy boom, skimmer boats — is a decision BP bean counters made.

“This is just my opinion,” Savant said, “but I think a BP corporate decision was made that it’s cheaper to clean up than to prevent it getting here or detaining it ... We’ve made requests like, ‘Let’s protect these jetties and rocks, because they’ll probably be impossible to clean.’ The responses are, ‘They can be cleaned. They were cleaned after Exxon Valdez with high-pressure hoses.’ Well, the oil is not there yet, so why can’t we try to protect them?”

Fillingame said it appears any prevention is being left to state and local governments.

“The time we spend pushing to get things implemented — that was not supposed to be our part of this process,” he said. “We didn’t know we’d have to get involved in the planning process, or the lack thereof.

“From Day 1, they had told us the real battle would be carried to the oil out in the deep water — skimmed, picked up, burned, everything humanly possible to stop it,” Fillingame said. “But as we’ve watched it progress, hitting the islands, then the beaches, all we’ve seen is reaction after it hits. We tried to learn from Louisiana, their experience when it started hitting there, but here it looks like impending impact, and we’re no more ready than we were seven weeks ago.”

Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran, who reached the same conclusion many weeks ago that locals were on their own, said her city has gotten a permit for a type of heavy boom, and she’s been pitching it to other local governments.

“Now, we’re just having to implore BP to fund it,” she said, noting it costs about $180 a foot and Ocean Springs alone needs 12,000 feet.

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