Nesting season over, oil cleanup ramping up on islands

GULF OF MEXICO — With nesting season ending on the barrier islands, the BP oil disaster cleanup will ramp up starting today.

BP spokesman Ray Melick tells the Sun Herald the work hadn’t been completely shut down, but was curtailed to permit sea birds to occupy the islands from April until about mid-August.

A Gulf Islands National Seashore official in April said BP crews had removed more than 3.5 million pounds of oil and tar from the islands, but much work remained to be done on Petit Bois and Horn islands.

“Our hope is to get back out in force on the islands. We’d like to go seven days a week, but the weather sometimes won’t allow that and we follow the direction the National Park Service gives us,” Melick said.

Melick said Louisiana-based Danos and Curole has been hiring and training local people crews for the island cleanup operations.

“We’re running about 150 to 170 people in operations, but by Monday that could be up to 250 to 300 people, and could go up, depending on what the operational needs are,” Melick said.

In April, company officials reported much of the Mississippi coastline had been cleaned. Federal officials certified about 180 miles as cleaned.

Melick said cleanup staging areas at Bayou Cassotte and Point Cadet are being closed, with operations moving to a pier on Back Bay across from the IP Casino.

“We want to, as soon as we can, get things to the point where the parks service says ‘This is great, now leave it alone,’ ” Melick said.

The BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on the night of April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and starting the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster.

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