Oil moves closer to Lafitte

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by Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on June 13, 2010 at 6:04 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 14 at 7:48 AM

LAFITTE, La. -- An aerial survey on Sunday found that heavy oil is now within five miles of lower Lafitte, and a light sheen is within one mile of the town, according to Jefferson Parish officials. It is the closest the oil has been to Lafitte since oil moved into Barataria Bay several weeks ago.

At a small pier in lower Lafitte, Debra Wilson gathered friends and family to help collect Sunday's dinner.

"We decided we'd go down here and go crabbing and fishing a little," she said, pointing to the more than two dozen crabs they pulled out of the water on Sunday.

The waters around Lafitte are rich in seafood, but with oil moving in, Wilson wonders just how much longer she will be able to eat the catch coming out of these waters.

"It just gets frightening that it's that close," she said.

Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner said it came as no surprise that the oil is closing on Lafitte, spreading out from a concentration near Bayou St. Denis.

"I've got my fishermen out there right now that's actually out there with some absorbent boom and hard boom and they're trying to battle the oil that's coming in on the east side of the Barataria waterway," Kerner said.

Jefferson Parish officials are also pressing forward with the idea of setting up barges, to build rock and sand berms at the four passes that feed waters from the Gulf of Mexico into Barataria Bay.

"By blocking those four passes, we can attempt to keep as much of the oil offshore and really accumulate it on sand, which is much easier to clean than it is on the marshland," Jefferson Parish Council Member Chris Roberts.

Lafitte resident Joseph Hatty runs swamp tours around the town, which is a prime tourism attraction in the area. He's been through a number of destructive hurricanes there -- four in the past five years alone -- but an oil spill is a first.

"With us, it just seems like it's every so many years, we're going to get hit by something and then we have to just work harder than we normally work, to try to fix it," Hatty said.

Yet, as oil creeps ever closer to Lafitte, the questions become two fold: How do you stop it and how many more disasters can one community take?"

"A lot of people wouldn't thought we'd survive the last four hurricanes since Katrina," Mayor Kerner said, "but I'll tell you, my people are hard working, they come back, they don't want to live anywhere else."

Even so, the encroaching threat may be starting to take its toll.

"I think it's going to start wearing down people-- if it doesn't wear us down physically, it's going to wear us down mentally," Hatty said. "And I think that's what's starting to happen."

Jefferson Parish officials said they hope to begin blocking the four passes to Barataria Bay on Wednesday. Construction could then begin on the rock and sand berms there.

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