I got a call from Grace Welch asking me to come to Terribone Parish to see the oil BP is leaving behind as the clean-up efforts to an end. Welch is a Pointe-au-Chien Indian from Pointe-au-Chien, LA. The community has taken a bad blow from the BP oil spill since most people make a living from fishing, shrimping, crabbing and oyster harvesting. Though their ancestral fishing grounds weren't as badly polluted as Bay Jimmy in Plaquaemines Parish or the beaches near Grand Isle, the marsh was fouled by BP oil. The marsh grass along the shores in Lake Chien and Lake Raccaurci that got coated in oil in May has died. Today a gooey swath of oil lines the shore. BP never cleaned this area. Some boom was put out after the oil had already gotten into the marsh and then was later removed. That was the extent of the clean up, Russell Dar Dar, an elder tribe member told me.
A few members of the tribe are still employed by BP in Terribone Parish, working off Cocodrie where they are removing oil drenched absorbent boom that has washed up on marshland. Once this boom is picked up, the clean up in Terribone Parish will be over. BP claims it will do the marsh more harm than good to clean it up. Where is their scientific justification coming from? Could it really be that leaving thick oil on the shore that has already killed the grass, to sink deeper into the soil, is a good thing? I watched birds hunting shrimp , sticking their beaks into the oily goop to catch their prey. Maybe a little oil isn't a bad thing?
A company called Gulfsavers has a solution that is not invasive to the march. Their product, made with oil-eating microbes, would help speed up the natural decomposing proccess. They have been unable to get BP to buy their product and are hoping enough donations will come in so that they can get some of their product in place and do their part in cleaning the marshland.
Dar Dar and I watched a shrimp boat at work just a few yards from the oil coated shore, in waters recently re-opened to fishing. We both wonder who would want to eat those shrimp if they saw the spot from which they came. Dar Dar has collected oysters that are being tested by the the Bucket Brigade (http://www.labucketbrigade.org/article.php?list=type&type=4) so he can decide whether or not he will resume oyster harvesting for the Thanksgiving season . Dar Dar is worried about the future. He no longer trusts what he is told. The BP oil disaster taught him the power of lies: If they are repeated often enough, people believe them. Dar Dar goes by what he sees and is having his own testing done.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
Here is a photo essay on the Pointe-au-Chien Indians I did for the Washington Post