Gulf Restoration Network

United for a Healthy Gulf

Jonathan Henderson
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Tuesday, 05 June 2012 12:04


siOn a recent trip to Mississippi’s West Ship Island, GRN’s Raleigh Hoke and I, along with two volunteers started our day by talking to folks about the effort underway to open Mississippi territorial waters to oil and gas drilling. We were invited by former GRN board member and owner/operator of Ship Island Excursions, Louis Skrmetta, to have an information table and opposition postcards for people to sign as they waited to board the ferries to the Island. For more on the efforts to halt these senseless drilling plans, visit the 12 Miles South Coalition website, of which GRN is a member, or take action to stop drilling along Mississippi's coast here

While I was glad to accompany Raleigh on this trip and assist with the tabling part of the day, my motivation was clearly focused on exploring the island for remaining BP drilling disaster impacts. BP’s Mike Utsler said recently that he expects active cleanup activities in Mississippi to be completed by the end of this year or early 2013.  He also stated that the Mississippi mainland was 98% cleaned but failed to suggest how much of the barrier islands have been cleaned. Well, based on what I have been seeing and hearing from people who live along the beaches all along the Mississippi coast, I have my doubts about the mainland. I have also been hearing from people that the barrier islands are in far worse shape than what is being portrayed in BP’s glossy ads.

On the southern shore of the island, where most people who visit spend their day, I had a chance to talk to a park ranger who explained to me that the island still has quite a bit of oil on it but that most of it was on the northern shore. Enough said.  I grabbed Raleigh, my camera and set out to explore. I was quite taken aback by what we found—hundreds of yards of highly weathered tar mats and tar balls, much of which seemed to have been covered with sand only to be exposed from recent winds.  Now, I can accept that no clean up activity should take place in bird nesting areas during bird nesting season, generally from April through August. But, what I find hard to comprehend is why oil that has presumably been there since 2010 has yet to be removed. According to NOAA’s Environmental Response Application, at least light levels of oil were found in July, 2010 at the exact area of shoreline where the photos I took below were taken in May of 2012.
The oil we found was indeed on the northern shore of West Ship Island to the east of Fort Massachusetts. The photos below reveal quite a bit of buried oil on the beaches. Have a look:


We need your help. If you don’t like what you just saw and think that it is a bad idea to expose the Gulf Islands National Seashore, including West Ship Island, to even more drilling impacts, please take action today. For other ways that you can help our efforts to stop drilling along the Mississippi coast such as volunteering or attending upcoming meetings, hearings and rallies, please contact Raleigh at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 504-525-1528 Ext. 204.


Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for GRN.


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