Grand Isle beach clean-up continues, six months after oil spill began

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by Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on October 21, 2010 at 6:20 PM

GRAND ISLE, La.-- Six months after the start of the BP oil spill, coastal areas of Jefferson Parish are still dealing with the effects. That is the case on Grand Isle where, amidst the quietly lapping waves, crews remain working on the shoreline.

"I don't want people to have the impression this is over. It's far from over," said Deano Bonano, Jefferson Parish director of emergency operations.

At Grand Isle State Park and on the eastern side of the island, the beach remains closed to visitors, as heavy machinery rumbles up and down the shore. Marie-Louise Rao and her husband, who were visiting from Germany, could do little but look at the beach from an elevated boardwalk.

"We always talk about the oil spill in Germany and we were very concerned about the whole thing," Rao said.

The concern may be justified. Months after oil from the spill washed up on Grand Isle's beach, it may look clean on the surface, but underneath, it's a different story. Shoreline assessment teams were dispatched to see where oil had settled on the beach. What they discovered is that it varies by location: lying anywhere from 2 inches to 3 feet below the surface of the sand.

Beaches are not the only areas feeling the impact -- so are the marshes around Barataria Bay, along with Grand Terre and Elmer's Island.

"The deposits of oil still remain there, both in the marsh and on the islands," Bonano said. "When you get high tides and changes in the wind, it actually pulls sheen out of those areas where oil is deposited."

Grand Isle Port Commission Director Wayne Keller said he saw a lot of changes on the island, which were brought on by the oil spill.

"We're at a transition point right now and that's a little scary," he said.

Keller, though, believes some things are getting back to normal.

"Housing was a major problem when all the workers were here, but a lot of those in that housing have pulled out," Keller said. "So, we're getting motels and places to stay. It's coming back."

Beaches on the western side of Grand Isle have reopened since the spill. Officials tell Eyewitness News that tests are ongoing, but, so far, the water samples have not indicated any problems.

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