Oil in the Wetlands
Cleanup continues even after the oil spill is finally stopped.
Today, I rode a 22-foot bay boat out into the wetlands off the coast of Louisiana. We traveled 26 miles from Cocodrie, a small fishing town at the end of state highway 56. The houses are all built up on stilts. Even mobile homes are hoisted on poles.
It took about 40 minutes to get to our destination—a grassy shoreline marked with oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Piloting the boat was Captain Tate Grossie who—until the oil spill—was a shrimp boat captain. He now leases his bay and shrimp boats to the BP oil company to help clean up the Gulf.
Also on the boat was Nathan Bradshaw from the Coast Guard. Together Grossie and Bradshaw take reporters out almost every day to see where the oil has infected the wetlands.
Along the way, as we weaved around the grasses through boat channels, we saw lots of wildlife. Pelicans perched on anything that stuck out of the water, from the frames of fishing shacks long blown away to rocks and pipes.
The pelicans feed off the bait fish constantly jumping along the surface of the water. Two days earlier we saw dolphin, but nothing like that today. Captain Tate said he also sees lots of nutria and raccoons on most of his trips out.
After shooting our video, we headed back to the marina. Before we got too far, we were stopped by a boat that looked like it was made out of tin. We slowed down so it could circle and examine Captain Tate’s pristine white fiberglass boat for any signs of oil.
We were clean, but Captain Tate took us to see what would happen if his boat had picked up any oil along the side. Dirty boats go to a floating “car wash” on the water. The dirty boat drives in between two other boats connected to each other by boom. Booms are like thick rope made of absorbent materials that soak up oil.
Another boom closes the boat in between the two cleaning boats so it is surrounded front and back by boom and on each side by a boat. The dirty boat is then blasted clean with water, the oil is soaked up, and the boat is allowed to continue back to port. The guys who clean the boats stay out on the floating boat wash all day. The most prominent thing I saw were bright green port-a-potties on board the cleaning boats!
I got a little seasick going out to the oil site, but did much better coming back. We were out about two and a half hours. Thank goodness Captain Tate brought ice cold Gatorade!
The Coast Guard didn’t have vests for reporters as small as me, so Captain Tate bought one at a local sporting goods store. He said he would give it his granddaughter once I was done. Thanks, Captain Tate!
PHOTO: Going 40 miles an hour on a 22-foot bay boat feels more like 140 miles an hour! Kid Reporter Trinity Vogel reports from Cocodrie, Louisiana. (Photo by Suzanne Freeman)