JEFFERSON, La. – Concerns about new oil in the waters off Grand Isle prompted Jefferson Parish and Coast Guard officials to test water samples Sunday, with some officials suspecting that the oil may have come from a project to plug a well in the Gulf.
But complicating matters somewhat, in a separate incident, the Coast Guard said dark sediment, and not oil, was spotted in water off Grand Isle and reported to officials Saturday.
On Sunday afternoon, Jefferson Parish President John Young spoke to reporters about what officials referred to as ribbons of oil to the west of the main island of Grand Isle, near Elmer’s Island and Caminada Bay.
“It looks similar to what we saw at the height of the oil spill,” Young said. “Browning, orangeish, oil (mixed) together with what appeared to be dispersant. We don't know.”
Photos from Councilman Chris Roberts showed the oily substance that Young described.
There was concern that the oil was from the Deepwater Horizon disaster last April, but Sunday evening, the Coast Guard said that seemed unlikely.
“Samples have been taken from the shoreline impacts for testing, but the oily substance is not, at this time, suspected to be residual oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said the Coast Guard in its release.
In an email Sunday evening, Roberts quoted parish emergency officials and a U.S. Coast Guard commander in Morgan City as saying there had been an oil well plug and abandonment project south of Grand Isle Saturday.
According to the parish, Coast Guard Commander John Burton indicated there was a 4-6 hour release of oil to the water, during that work, and the source has been secured. An investigation is ongoing, the Coast Guard official reported.
“In the meantime we're getting boom out there to try and cut off that cut that allows this substance, we think it’s oil, to go into the marsh behind Elmer’s Island,” Young said.
Coast Guard oil response assets were also mobilized and boom had been pre-staged, according to officials.
The Coast Guard news release said oil was washing ashore on Elmer Isle, Fourchon Beach and Grand Isle.
“Currently, the west end of Grand Isle, the east and west end of Elmer Island, and intermittent areas of Fourchon Beach have been impacted,” said the Coast Guard.
However, the substance reported Saturday, stretching 100 miles out into the Gulf south of Grand Isle, appears to be sediment, the Coast Guard said.
Officials said those samples from Saturday that were analyzed contained “only trace amounts of petroleum hydrocarbons, oil and grease.”
“At this point, the dark substance is believed to be caused by a tremendous amount of sediment being carried down the Mississippi River due to high water, possibly further agitated by dredging operations,” said the Coast Guard.
However, tests are underway on the new oil collected Sunday.