BP starts marsh cleanup as sludge hits Plaquemines

BP starts marsh cleanup as sludge hits Plaquemines

BP starts marsh cleanup as sludge hits Plaquemines

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by Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on May 21, 2010 at 8:40 PM

Updated Friday, May 21 at 9:48 PM

As responders enter their second month of oil clean up, they now face a new challenge, removing the pollution from sensitive marshland in the Mississippi River Delta. 

Thick oil with the consistency of cake batter is now coating a large section of marsh grass in Pass a Loutre, just off of Plaquemines Parish.

It is one of three areas along the Louisiana Coast where heavy oil washed ashore this week.

Local leaders say the pollution has the potential to choke off the grass and kill the marsh.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles could not say how much oil has been recovered in the wetlands, but he claims crews are cleaning up the mess.

"The Pass A Loutre area, the cleaning technique we're using is shallow water skimmers," said Shuttles. "These are devices that can be placed in the open water and recover the oil off the top. We're using absorbent boom and after all that we'll follow that up with flushing techniques."

Suttles says the sludge, now making landfall in Pass a Loutre was part of a large glob of emulsified oil that was not detected until it moved into the marsh.

"There still are strips of emulsion that are moving from the well site toward the Louisiana shoreline," said Suttles. "We continue to fight those and working to better identify them while they're still offshore and move equipment to intercept them."

With some of the oil already invading the marsh, crews are taking steps to keep it from moving further inland.

"If it already got past your first line of defense you try to contain it in that location so it doesn't migrate as secondary pollution to impact another area," said Charlie Henry, Scientific Support Coordinator for The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Henry says cleaning up oil in the marsh is a delicate dance.

"Each habitat, even different types of marshes, different types of shell beaches or sand beaches, each of those is treated differently," said Henry. "The last thing we want to do in some of these sensitive marsh habitats is get too aggressive, trample the marsh, cause physical impact to that marsh which will actually cause even more long term damage."

BP announced it is starting a new aerial photography survey operation to help identify large oil patches before they make landfall. 

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