GULF OF MEXICO — BP official say they need about a week of favorable weather to complete the cleanup of Horn Island in the Mississippi Gulf of Mexico.
“Our guys in operations feel like that in a good five to seven days we can do that cleanup on the south shore of Horn,” said BP spokesman Ray Melick.
Melick tells The Mississippi Press the south shore of Horn Island is the only barrier island area where cleanup crews are actively working.
“We are probably running about 400 people total in operations in Mississippi,” Melick said.
About 50 vessels are being used, he said.
“We are really making good progress on Petit Bois, East and West Ship and Cat islands,” Melick said. “We are just waiting on final shoreline treatment recommendations to go into patrol and maintenance.”
Patrol and maintenance means teams would check the islands daily and cleanup would occur when needed, he said.
The islands and Mississippi’s coast were affected by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began April 20 when a BP rig exploded and caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico. The incident killed 11 rig workers and unleashed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil until the broken wellhead was capped on July 15, 2010.
A submerged oil mat was found on the Horn Island shoreline over the weekend, he said.
“We got a good chunk of that up,” he said. “So, that,s been good from the standpoint that we found it and got it up and that we,ve not seen that on the other islands.”
Cleanup crews are allowed to dig six inches deep to remove concentrations of oil such as the tar mat found over the weekend, he said.
Cleanup crews returned to the islands on Oct. 13 after activities were suspended on March 1 for the nesting season.
About 3.5 million pounds of oiled material have been removed from the barrier islands since the oil spill. Melick said another half million pounds of material has been collected on the mainland shore since the spill.
He said about 60 percent of the weight is actual oil product.
In a separate but related item, a federal judge says Alabama and Louisiana can pursue punitive damages against BP and other companies involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier denied efforts by BP and several co-defendants in the case to dismiss the two states’ federal complaints, upholding their right to pursue punishment damages and other compensation under general maritime law and the federal Oil Pollution Act.
Barbier’s ruling, dated Monday, was not a total victory for Alabama and Louisiana: He dismissed some claims in the lawsuits that were based on state laws.