Evidence Mounts of BP Spraying Toxic Dispersants
Monday 13 September 2010
Shirley and Don Tillman, residents of Pass Christian, Mississippi, have owned shrimp boats, an oyster boat and many pleasure boats. They spent much time on the Gulf of Mexico before working in BP's Vessels Of Opportunity (VOO) program looking for and trying to clean up oil.
Don decided to work in the VOO program in order to assist his brother, who was unable to do so due to health problems. Thus, Don worked on the boat and Shirley decided to join him as a deckhand most of the days.
"We love the Gulf, our life is here and so when this oil disaster happened, we wanted to do what we could to help clean it up," Shirley explained to Truthout.
However, not long after they began working in BP's response effort in June, what they saw disturbed them. "It didn't take long for us to understand that something was very, very wrong about this whole thing," Shirley told Truthout. "So that's when I started keeping a diary of what we experienced and began taking a lot of pictures. We had to speak up about what we know is being done to our Gulf."
Shirley logged what they saw and took hundreds of photos. The Tillmans confirm, both with what they logged in writing as well as in photos, what Truthout has reported before: BP has hired out-of-state contractors to use unregistered boats, usually of the Carolina Skiff variety, to spray toxic Corexit dispersants on oil located by VOO workers.
Shirley provided Truthout with key excerpts from the diary she kept of her experiences out on the water with her husband while they worked in the VOO program before they, like most of the other VOO workers in Mississippi, were laid off because the state of Mississippi, along with the US Coast Guard, has declared there is no more "recoverable oil" in their area.
"The first day I went, I noticed a lot of foam on the water," reads her entry from June 26. "My husband said he had been seeing a lot of it. At that time, we were just looking for 'Oil.' We would go out in groups of normally, five boats. The Coast Guard was over the VOO operation. There was always a Coast Guard on at least one of the boats. They would tell us when to leave the harbor, where to go and how fast to go. They had flags on each of the VOO boats and also a transponder. Sometimes we would have one or more National Guardsmen in our group too, as well as an occasional safety man to monitor the air quality and procedures on the boat. If we found anything, the Coast Guard in our group would call it in to 'Seahorse' and they would determine what action would be taken."
Along with giving a clear description of how the Coast Guard was thus always aware of the findings of the VOO workers, her diary provides, at times, heart-wrenching descriptions of what is happening to the marine life and wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico.
"Before we went to work, I went down by the beach," reads her entry from July 4. "There were dead jellyfish everywhere. Some of them were surrounded by foam. A seagull was by the waters edge, as the foamy stuff continued to wash up. There was also a crane that appeared to be sick. It didn't look like it had any oil on it, but it just stood there, no matter how close I got."
On the morning of August 5, Shirley describes spotting a dead young dolphin floating in the water. "As we waited for the VOO Wildlife boat to come pick it up, we noticed a pod of dolphins close by," she writes. "Even with all the boats around, they did not leave until the dead one was removed from the water. It was very emotional, for all of us."
The next day, August 6, found her logging more death. "Last night on the news, they reported a fish kill. Before we went to work, I went to the beach by the harbor. The seagulls were everywhere. As for the dead fish, the only ones on the beach, were ones that the tide had left when it went back out. The rest of the 'Fish Kill,' was laying underwater, on the bottom. It was mainly flounder and crab. We only spotted two dead flounder floating that day. I can only imagine how many were on the bottom ... I went back to the beach after work. The tide had gone out and the seagulls were eating all the dead fish that had been exposed. You could still see dead fish underwater, still on the bottom. Dead fish don't float anymore?"
The Tillman's primary concern is the rampant use of toxic dispersants by what they described as private contractors working in unregistered boats, that regularly were going out into the Gulf as they and other VOO teams were coming in from their days' work. There was, oftentimes, so much dispersant on top of the water, their boat left a trail.