Debris in Gulf relief well delays work

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“Diluted and out of sight does not mean benign,” she said. “But in those concentrations there will be minimal impact to the big things that are out in the ocean, big fish, big marine mammals, birds.”

She said scientists still don’t know the oil’s environmental effect underwater.

For help with the long-term recovery, BP has hired Witt and his public safety and crisis management consulting firm. Witt, who was FEMA director under President Bill Clinton, said he wants to set up teams along the Gulf to work with BP to address long-term restoration and people’s needs.

“Our hope is that we can do it as fast as we can,” Witt said. “I’ve seen the anguish and the pain that people have suffered after disaster events. I have seen communities come back better than before.”

BP and Witt’s firm refused to say how much Witt will be paid for his work.

Commercial fishermen, meanwhile, were allowed back on a section of Louisiana waters east of the Mississippi River on Friday after federal authorities said samples of finfish and shrimp taken from the areas were safe to eat.

About 70 percent of Louisiana waters are now open to some kind of commercial fishing, but state waters in Mississippi and Alabama remain closed and so do nearly a quarter of federal waters in the Gulf.

Reinforcing the state’s declaration that Louisiana seafood is safe to eat was U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. At a news conference in New Orleans, she said fish showed levels of contaminants that were “extremely low, significantly below the threshold of concern.”

Hamburg stressed that testing will continue because of the large volumes of oil spilled and the large amounts of dispersants used to break it up.

Seafood industry representatives hailed the reopening, but Rusty Graybill, a boat captain from Ysckloskey, La., who fishes for crab, oysters and shrimp, said “it’s a joke.”

“I’m pretty sure I’ll go out and I’ll get oil-covered shrimp. They capped this well and now they’re trying to say it’s OK,” he said.

Graybill, a wiry 28-year-old with a leathery tan, made a 2-inch circle with his thumb and finger. “I’m still finding tar balls this big out there, and the boom is still covered in oil,” he said.

Oil rig workers are struggling along with fishermen because a federal moratorium on new deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Those workers will be getting $100 million in aid that BP said Friday it will distribute through a Louisiana charity.

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Harry Weber reported from Biloxi, Miss. Associated Press Writers Jason Dearen in Ysckloskey and Kevin McGill and Brian Skoloff in New Orleans contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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