Crews working to contain oil in Mississippi Sound

GULF OF MEXICO — State, federal and BP officials were working today to contain and skim a patch of oil found in the Mississippi Sound.

Officials say one patch was a mile long and a couple hundred yards wide near Horn and Ship islands, and another one was south of Petit Bois Island near the Alabama line.

“The unified command task force is on site, skimming and pulling boom,” state Department of Marine Resources director Bill Walker said. “It should be handle-able, but what bothers me is that we didn’t know about it while it was still way outside the islands. This is the second or third time we’ve been surprised by material that got too close.”

Walker said the boom-pulling and skimmer boats should be able to prevent landfall of anything worse than a light sheen.

“That’s what the task force is assigned to do, and so far has been able to, so hopefully this will be of no real consequence,” Walker said. “But we want to be spotting this stuff further out.”

The larger patch came through Dog Keys Pass and was about a mile inside Horn and Ship islands when it was spotted Wednesday, Walker told The Sun Herald.

BP confirmed that mousse, tar balls and emulsion were found in the areas. BP said that it is working with the Coast Guard, MDMR and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to clean and contain the oil before it reaches land.

BP told The Mississippi Press that teams have been deployed to Petit Bois and Horn islands to pick up tar balls, tar patties and any mousse that may come ashore.

About 50 vessels of opportunity using skimmers and boom in the Dog Keys Pass area and another 10 vessels are using booms and nets to collect a tar patty field south of Petit Bois.

“It’s a field of different sizes of this congealed tar patty material…it’s the peanut butter fudge like consistency,” Trudy Fisher, MDEQ executive director, told WLOX-TV about the Petit Bois area.

“With the scope the magnitude of what we’re dealing with, they may not be able to get it all, but we’re doing everything we can … BP, Coast Guard, state and local officials.”

Walker said his agency closed additional areas to fishing Wednesday because of the oil — all waters for about five miles around Horn Island, except for Fish Haven 10.

Walker said the boom-pulling and skimmer boats should be able to prevent landfall of anything worse than a light sheen.

“That’s what the task force is assigned to do, and so far has been able to, so hopefully this will be of no real consequence,” Walker said. “But we want to be spotting this stuff further out.”

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