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Life Arts

Destruction along the Gulf. How Has it Come to This?

By       Message Dahr Jamail       (Page 2 of 5 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

A little further, we pass dozens of large shrimp boats laden with boom and skimming gear. They've been converted into response vessels for BP's fading Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program that has created a false economy for the now out of work fishermen. "BP is buying out a way of life," Craig says when he sees me eyeing the boats, all of which are tied to the dock. "Generations of shrimping " done."

After a short time we arrive in Devil's Bay, to find forests of white PVC pipe sticking out of the water. The pipe is used to hold absorbent boom in place. Much of the boom is washed ashore, or gone completely. "That PVC doesn't rot," Craig comments, "It'll be there a long time."

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

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Boom contaminated with oil is abundant. Craig turns the boat out towards the bay, which is empty. "Right now, there should be 50 or 60 shrimp boats in here, but now it's like this " closed, and most folks are afraid to fish. We need good testing of the seafood, and it needs to be done right. We only have one shot at this."

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

Out in Devil's Bay we encounter a boat pulling a closed-off harbor skimmer: equipment used to skim up oil slicks. The boat is accompanied by an unmarked Carolina Skiff, driven by a man wearing desert camouflage pants and a tan shirt. Our captain will not let us get close enough to the boat pulling the skimmer to talk to its captain, nor will the boat's captain even look at us.

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"These boats don't even have their Louisiana numbers," Craig says, annoyed. "Somebody brought these boats down here and threw them in the water, and they are not even from this state. It's another part of the scam."

I've written recently about how private contractors are being brought in from out of state to use these boats to spray dispersant on oil located by fisherman working in the VOO program in the four most heavily affected states.

We carry on to arrive at Casse-tete Ise. We find large amounts of absorbent boom washed ashore. Some of this had been there so long it is largely covered in sand.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

"I guarantee you they'll come pick that up," Craig says angrily, mocking BP. Given that there is boom washed ashore and oiled PVC pipes around much of the island, it's clear that BP is aware of the island being hit by oil. It is also clear that nobody has been back to check on it for a very long time.

We offload from the boat and step ashore. Oil-soaked marsh abounds, and the island smells like a gas station. Noxious fumes infiltrate my nose, causing me to cough. Piles of oiled oysters rest on the tide line.

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Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

Everywhere I step near the water, sheen bubbles up out of the soil. Hermit crabs scuttle over dead, oiled marsh grass. Inland, we find tide pools filled with brown oil and sheen. The horrible smell makes me dizzy and nauseous. Each of us walks around on our own, trying to take in the devastating scene. Anger and a deep sadness comingle inside me. Rage at BP melds into a broader anger at all of us for having let it come to this.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

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DAHR JAMAIL He is author of the book Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq. Jamail's work has been featured on National Public Radio, the Guardian, The Nation, and The Progressive. He has received many (more...)
 

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