Category: Volunteering Debacle



07.06.2010

Today, I attended an oiled bird rehabilitation.  Never in my life, did I think I could experience such polar opposite emotions for what I witnessed.  On one hand, I was heartbroken for the oiled wildlife and the troubles that they have endured because of this man-made spill. On the other hand, I was deeply grateful that these birds made it long enough to be rehabilitated.

The Pensacola Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation (POWH), which opened in May 2010, has currently 52 birds in their captivity that consists primarily of northern gannets, high bill greens, seagulls, ferns and a few herons.  While the POWH can easily accommodate a few hundred birds, dependent on size and severity of oil coverings, the maximum that POWH has contained has been 102 birds,  bringing the total to 949 birds rescued within the four Gulf rehabilitation centers.

When a bird first enters the rehabilitation center-the oil is not cleaned right away. Many birds are in shock or frightened and they need to be stabilized and possibly re-hydrated before any further stress is placed upon the bird. It has been found that by giving the birds a couple days to recuperate has increased the survivability tenfold.

Initially, veterinarians take  blood and feather samples to test for anemia and infection and give the oiled birds a temporary tag. Then the bird is taken to an oiled bird trailer where it can rest, if needed, in a temperature controlled trailer and receive IV fluids, food and Pepto Bismo to protect its stomach lining.

Just before they are washed, the birds are sprayed with a warm canola oil to loosen oil residue on their feathers. Then they are taken to a washing tub which requires normally 3-4 people to wash one oiled bird.

Once the head and pouch is cleaned using clothes, toothbrushes and small sponges are used for delicate areas with water flushed on an almost continuous basis to keep the soap from running into the birds eyes. A bath normally lasts up to 45 minutes, and for a large bird, like a brown pelican, as much as 300 gallons of water is used.

After a scrubbing down of the bird, a thorough rinse is necessary considering that soap can interfere in the same manner as oil via hypothermia.

Newly cleaned, the birds are whisked off to a drying room to rest in a padded pen while floor-mounted pet grooming dryers blew warm air. Smaller birds and wading birds are not blow dried but instead sit in pens under warming lights.

Once their total strength is gained, birds are then permanently tagged for tracking purposes and transported to outside containment facilities to get them re-accustomed to outside surroundings before releasing them into the wild.  The birds are allowed to recover for five to seven days, regaining buoyancy and water resistance by preening, putting on weight, and readjusting to outdoor temperatures.

Once returned to good health, they are ready to be released to the wild.  However, the wild may not be ready for them. In an environmental disaster like the Deepwater Horizon spill, wildlife cannot return to their contaminated homes. Instead birds have to be released into an area where they do not run the chance of being re-oiled. The majority of the birds are released off the east coast of Florida.

I asked Heidi Stout from the Tri-State Bird Rescue  & Research Organization, on ways that everyday citizens can get involved with the clean up of oiled wildlife. At this time, the only people who can physically help the oiled wildlife is trained paraprofessionals (licensed veterinarians, license wildlife handlers etc) since dealing with stressed birds could be harmful.

However, she urged for concerned citizens who are willing to volunteer via answering phones and inputting data information to contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife to offer assistance. It was also suggested that the donation of goods used to help clean the animals and monetary donations to further recovery efforts would be greatly appreciated.

Additionally, you can visit http://www.volunteerflorida.org/ to sign up for more volunteer training as well as visit a facebook group called, NWFL Panhandle Volunteer Beach Rescue Group at, http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=113452012028768&ref=ts for panhandle county specific volunteer efforts.

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1. Can they clarify with any potential issues with the well board, as of today’s teleconference~ they stated that they have “not made a final decision yet. Have they made a final determination as to what pressure the casing, downhole and BOP can confront?

2. Can they elaborate more on the “shelf life” of the materials out to sea, when they start to become “weathered”- will they provide another environmental hazard that we should take into consideration?

3. Incredibly important~ what are their protection methods of the marsh and coral beds since they cannot use harsh dispersant or else it would wipe out the fragile ecosystem.

4. When are they expecting the results from NOAA on the subsea hydrocarbon count? (If found, that would mean there are oil plumes under the surface that satellite is not picking up.) How are they going to determine that it is “merely” the oil being dispersed from the wellhead or something more serious, such as the dispersant weighing the water down and causing it to sink.

5. What type of drilling fluids are they using for the choke n’ kill lines of the top kill interaction? Has there been EPA testing on these fluids so that they do not cause a new environmental concerned if leaked?

6. Other than logistics and “comfortableness”, why will BP not look into other already approved EPA dispersants that are considerably less toxic. Coretix 9500 and 9527A have a toxicity level of anywhere between 1/10 and 1/100 of that of oil.

7. Further; in a teleconference a few days ago- they spoke super briefly on another dispersant being considered “Sea Wrap 4”. Can the elaborate on this method, the toxicity level and also if this is a considerable option or should be read in the manner of C-wrap or “crap” which many people feel BP are giving us. ;) <– okay, the question may be a little harsh; I just get a kick out of the misread. lol

8. On a serious note; can they elaborate more on the HOT TAP method for this could be disastrous to our Gulf if they do not find the blockage and/or dislodge the slight block that is already there.

9. In today’s teleconference, they talked about doing something of the hot tap nature but apply another blow out preventer; not just another valve. Can they elaborate and is the risk minimized if another BOP is simply placed over instead of having to severe the pipe completely?

10. How are they going about managing “burn out” of the employees? In what manner are they rotating and what are the qualifications are the job?

11. What is the logic of BP in selecting qualified volunteers who have completed either Module 3 or Module 4 training. How many employees have hired in each state and how many more employees are they intending to hire in each state as of this point.

12. What was their conclusion from the meeting late last week which discussed the 2010 hurricane season (on June 1st) and potential impacts (hurricanes- spreading the oil further inland or sinking it) and the heat (it gets over 100 deg here in Fla) and its ability to dilute the oil which would spread it faster than anticipated? What are their proactive measures?

13. How are they tracking the movement of the loop current and is there any way to safeguard the intersection of the loop current and the gulf stream?

14. How confident are they that they 2 relief wells being built (and supposedly operational by mid August) will relieve all pressure of the current well? Do they have any back up methods; to stay on the safe side?

15. How can you drill so deep in the Gulf yet not have any equipment/technology available to contain any spill or mishap that might happen at this depth?

16. What kind of green materials and technologies (such as oil-sorbets made from recycled materials) is BP using to best insure the clean up is environmentally conscious?


BP to offer training in conjunction with OSHA and the Coast Guard.

Health, Safety and Environmental Training has been a key focus to properly prepare those interested in participating in shoreline clean up. The training is fit-for-purpose based on whether you are a volunteer, contractor or vessel owner. The Post-Emergency Spilled Oil Response Training Modules were prepared by Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), with review and approval provided by BP, Occupational Safety & Health Administration and US Coast Guard personnel.

The training is for those registered in the Vessel of Opportunity program or as a contractor who wants to participate in clean up. The non-contaminated beach clean up “volunteers” will receive a basic BP health, safety & environmental orientation which as been endorsed by OSHA and the the Coast Guard.

To be included as a volunteer, please contact the BP volunteer hotline at 866-448-5816. Your contact information will be gathered and you will contacted when opportunities arise in your area.

****If you are interested in assisting in shoreline oil spill clean up operations, and you live in one of the coastal states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida), you can request placement in a spill response course by emailing Horizonresponse@pecpremier.com.

PLEASE NOTE:: This course is not a guarantee of employment but provides credentials needed to be hired for spill cleanup work by BP contractors.

For more up to date information, visit http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.


Last Thurs, I was on a teleconference between the Department of the Interior, Coastguard, NOAA, EPA, BP and Transocean.  I put in for a question and I was selected first.

I felt BP should explain their reasoning behind that as OUR residents should be benefiting from those new jobs, not somebody else’s bank account out of state.  I asked Mary Cocklan- Vendl- (BP shoreline and response and BP Richard Sanener- BP shoreline technical advisor from the UK the logic behind this decision; specifically Santa Rosa County,  for the jobs that were being created were being outsourced to 3rd parties and NOT being given to our residents like initially promised. Much like the clean up after Hurricane Katrina.

A silence filled the room and then Mary replied, “We are employing SCAT (Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Techniques) employees to clean up the beach line. I then asked, when is the training going to be offered for the residents who are wanting to help with the clean up recovery. She said, “It is not. The SCAT group will ensure consistency, plans and managing boards for consistent data management.”   In response, I asked about the 4 hr hazmat training classes that were offered and why would residents be directed to that class, if that class was not even applicable to the oil cleaning and wildlife process.

Again, another silence filled the room. She then said, “I am not qualified to answer that question- the best way to find out information is to go to our ENVIRONMENTAL hotline at 1-866-448-5816.

I objected,  “That is the call center for your hotline and they only record information- They cannot offer clarification. They will not be able to help me which is why I posed *you* the question. Then a male voice spoke up and said, “or you can call 866-366-5511.

Then my call was disconnected. 0.0

I called the # ending in 5511 and it rang until a voice mail picked up saying I reached “American Office Products”. I left a msg and then another msg yesterday asking for a returned call. I still have yet to receive one.

In the meantime, I contacted the general call line again and raised holy cane saying that the BP official gave me this number and I want to talk to somebody who knows something. It took 28 min (literally) of convincing that I was who I said I was and that my intentions were pure. (I told them I wanted to help BP look better in the eyes of the media).  Then I was connected to a supervisor.

Karen (who was “not allowed” to give me her last name) answered and I asked her why are our local jobs, that were promised to us by BP, being given to a 3rd party? Also, what is going to happen to all of the volunteers in NW Fla who took the 4 hr hazmat training to help the oiled wildlife and that Santa Rosa County is in the works of offering hazmat training to assist.  Why would this training be given, if it is not applicable to the oil spill? Further, will people be allowed on the beaches with their hazmat certificate?

After much hemming & hawing, she replied that only SCAT officials will be allowed for clean up and wildlife assistance. That HAZMAT training was not specific enough. That they are drawing from the hazmat training class and supposedly tapping for higher interest within that knowledge pool.   (Side note:: I dont think this is happening. I think BP is trying to cover up the damage of the oil spill so they are contracting people to come out and report what “needs” to be reported.)

Obviously, I was not thrilled with that answer. So I kept pushing until she broke and she gave me the direct number for BP and told me to call to get through to the reception area and then asked for the aforementioned people by name. I left a msg and another follow up msg for both parties and will continue calling around that facility on Monday until I get another directory path.

Also, another problem surrounding that is the toll free number given by BP for an “oiled animal rescueline” that I am trying to get answers too is WHY are checking messages on an hourly basis? Time is of the essence when a bird is covered in oil and developing hypothermia because the body cannot retain the heat.  This appears rather heartless to me and I feel that messages needed to be checked more frequently.

The State of Florida is now taking control of the recovery wheel and pushing for more cleanup money. As the initial amount of $25 Million will not even be CLOSE to the amount of money that our counties will need to effectively rid the oil from our shorelines. Congressman Jeff Miller has put in a request for $1 Billion dollars to assist our State and is awaiting approval.  If our State is only given $25 million, we will risk a County bankruptcy for the recovery process will cost much more than that.  Escambia county just spent $1.2 billion dollars to buy booms to cover their shorelines, so this is a reasonable. How ironic since Unified Command stated that they would honor all “reasonable requests” yet denied our request for booms.

However, the question still remains, “How can we best assess Florida’s future damage that is caused to our small coastline businesses, the fishing and the tourism industry?” Hopefully by relying on the past year trends of condos, hotel, local tourist attraction revenue and calculating inflation into the equation, Florida can determine the answer on how to best help the struggling bystanders of this man made, careless oil spill in our beautiful Gulf of Mexico.

Copyright © 2010 ClearWater Perspective.  All rights reserved.


Another teleconference was held, in which I participated in, with the Department of  Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),  Coastguard, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), British Petroleum (BP) and TransOcean.

All response efforts are being considered and over 700 vessels have been brought in to respond.  All fishermen looking to be compensated for their monetary loses can cash in on a new program, instituted by BP, called “Vessel of Opportunities”.  Sign up information can be found by calling 281-366-5511.

Amongst other things, 9 remote operated vehicles were deployed to the sea floor to stop the flow of oil but to no avail. The oil continues to pour out at a rate of approximately 200,00 gallons of oil every day and extensive efforts have been put forth around the clock to close the oil leak at it’s source.

The suggestion earlier this morning that an annular ram, which clamps around the drill pipe and shuts off flow in and around the drill pipe, has caused a significant reduction in oil flow is inaccurate.  The rescue response remains time critical.

The most recent approach – cutting the riser at the wellhead, sliding a huge piece of equipment called the riser package out of the way and bolting a second blowout preventer atop the first one to stop the flow of oil-  is hoped to be completed today.

34.5 hours ago, a dispersant was released at the source of the leak in an attempt to break up the oil before it reaches the surface.  Officials are currently waiting overflight data to determine if this attempt has been effective.  The long term effect of the dispersant in deepwater ecology has not been determined. Overflight effectiveness of the oil dispersant will be evaluated today.

An impromptu coast line solution was implemented in installing chemical-filled barriers around portions of Dauphin Island to mitigate the potential damage from the Gulf oil spill as it approaches the Alabama coast. Once the oil seeps into the barrier, the chemical absorbs the oil and solidifies. The solid waste can then be disposed and refilled with more chemicals.

A relief well, the primary long term solution, has been deployed and started drilling at 18,000 feet below the surface yesterday around 3pm CDT.  This relief well will tap into the same oil reserve; thus relieving the broken well of it’s pressure and eliminating the spewing of additional oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  However, significant results of  this external drilling will take anywhere from 2-3 months.

A cofferdam-like dome structure, the primary short term solution, is a work in progress.  This method lowers a dome into the water and is placed over each of the leaks which, in return,  funnels the oil into a containment chamber on the Enterprise drill ship.

The problem remains that this collection dome has only been tested in shallow waters. The effectiveness of this dome at greater depths in an unknown but officials continue to remain hopeful. The fabricated chamber will be loaded tomorrow and operating by 03.10.2010 instead of the 2-4 weeks construction as initially suggested.

It is important to note that this projected date is only applicable for the *main* leak point as the other two chambers have yet to be constructed.

An additional threat has been brought to light in regards to the Gulf of Mexico’s loop current. This warm water current sets up in the Gulf of Mexico and flows out through the Florida Straights, past the Keys and joins the Gulf Stream on the East Coast of Florida.  It has been suggested that the oil slick could venture into the loop current within 24 hours, dependent on the wind direction.

Winds are expected to come from the SouthWest and than Northern direction. These winds are expected to hold the oil slick off in the Gulf for another day. However, SouthEast winds are expected to prevail which will then cause a potential threat the surrounding coastline.

At this point, the winds have impressioned the waves to bring forth animals upon the shoreline from Biloxi to Bay St. Louis in Mississippi.  Fish, seagulls, pelicans and, most notably, a group of 20 sea turtles including  Kemps ridley turtles, which are endangered species washed up dead on the shore. The determine cause of death is being investigated; however, it is suggested the the animals came into contact with noxious fumes or eat fish that housed oil.

The root of the problem appears to be a towering stack of heavy equipment 5,000 feet below the surface of the gulf known as a blowout preventer. It is a steel-framed stack of valves, rams, housings, tanks and hydraulic tubing that is designed to seal the well quickly in the event of a burst of pressure.

It was said that while the ram closed, they did not seal properly and; therefore, allowed natural gas to escape causing a pressure imbalance.  There has been no additional responsibility placed at this time but an investigation into the root cause of this accident is underway. (Watch for a flood of fingers pointing to Halliburton, a defense contractor in charge of cementing the rig in addition to BP).

No oil has been reported to have reached the coastline as of date and the weather is forecasted to calm down this week which will allow skimming, fly over dispersant and the talks of controlled burning  to be viable short term relief options.

Until then, people are urged to hold out hope, have faith and be on the offensive.  Additionally, HAZMAT training is being offered in several key areas for Gulf Coast volunteers who are wanting to assist the oiled wildlife.  Amongst other training centers, HAZMAT training started this weekend in Pensacola, FL and will continue into this coming week. Further, the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge is accepting donations to aid the injured animals affected.  Please visit: http://www.ecwildliferefuge.com for more information.

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