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With temporary cap in place, what now for the Gulf?
Question of the Day
The notion of halting all deepwater drilling until we know what happened here might seem a no-brainer to many people in other parts of the country, but here, where many families have feet in both industries, people are seriously conflicted.
Even those who have been damaged most by the spill are now wholly dependent on the industry. Compensation payments and cleanup contracts from BP have put many in the region on a kind of artificial life support, forestalling what could be major life decisions.
When the fishing is good, Wayne and Lisa Ledet, owners of Doris Seafood in Hopedale, make $500 to $1,000 a day packing crabs, oysters and shrimp for the Baltimore market. Now, their $80,000 ice machine is churning for just one customer: BP.
The Ledets won a contract to provide ice to three camps where BP is housing workers. Gypsy Gordon, 40, and boyfriend Shawn Platt, 45, were on the verge of pulling up stakes and heading to Florida when the Ledets hired them to fill plastic bags with ice.
With Platt shoveling, they fill 500 bags a day, at 35 cents apiece. They’re making about $100 less than they’re used to, Mr. Platt said, “but it’s a paycheck.”
“And it’s air-conditioned,” Ms. Gordon quipped.
BP employees tell them the company plans to be in Hopedale for two to three years.
“I’d rather be here bagging ice than anywhere else,” Ms. Gordon says.
But for some, this spill, coming on the heels of so many devastating hurricanes, has stretched the bonds of place.
If Sandy Reno could take her 13-year-old son and leave right now, she would.
“There was nothing down here for women after Katrina, anyway,” she says, emerging from a pharmacy in the town of Port Sulphur, a 20-mile drive from her home in Boothville. “We used to have shops and a fitness center and a pool at the YMCA. We don’t even have that anymore. This a man’s place. Just look around.”
But she knows there aren’t many places where a man like her husband, George, 52, with a seventh-grade education, could run his own business and thrive.
“If he was to take a crew boat job or be a tug boat driver, I think he could do it,” says Sandy Reno, who kept the books for the family’s two shrimp boats, the Captain Bubby and Little Dipper. “But that’s not what he’s done. He’s always worked for hisself.”
Only now, he’s working for BP — and still waiting to be paid for more than a month’s labor.
Work on the two relief wells intended to kill the well once and for all is expected to be completed next month. But experts say tar balls and oil mats will continue to wash ashore from Texas to Florida — and perhaps beyond — for years.
By Michael P. Orsi
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