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Companies remain unpaid for oil spill cleanup work

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — Several companies that were hired to help BP respond to the massive oil spill claim the company or one of its contractors owes them millions of dollars for their work.

Ricky Myers, who owns Rhino Construction in Bay St. Louis, said that BP contractor O’Brien’s Response Management owes him $650,000 for his company’s work cleaning up beaches and barrier islands after the spill.

“It seems like the bottleneck or the buck stops at O’Brien,” Myers said.

A spokesman for O’Brien’s said he is looking into the companies’ claims and couldn’t immediately comment.

Myers said BP officials have assured him the company has fully paid O’Brien’s, but other subcontractors say BP deserves some blame.

“I figure it’s BP trying to worm out of paying,” said Matthew Creel, who owns a Carriere, Miss.-based excavation company.

BP spokeswoman Heidi Feick said the company is working with its major contractors “to provide support as necessary.”

Creel said he is owed $60,000 — about 30 percent of the work his company performed.

Myers said much of the money owed is “retainage,” or money that is withheld until the quality of a subcontractor’s work can be verified. Myers said the retainage money was supposed to be paid within two weeks of the work’s completion, but some companies have been waiting for months to get any of that money.

Myers said the delay threatens to drive smaller firms out of business.

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