Frustrations Continue as Winds Move Oil Sheen East
PENSACOLA, Fla. - Tar dollops, balls and patties continue to wash ashore on Florida's Panhandle beaches as winds and current push breakaway sheens and masses of oil farther east.
Widening impact and scarce resources led to continuing frustrations. None of it dampened beachgoers, as the shore was packed. The state's beaches remain open and there are no health advisories.
Skimmers and other vessels in the water moved east with the oil. Cleanup crews on the beach were in Escambia County on Sunday.
The mess continues to befoul Escambia beaches where BP cleanup crews in white cover-ups and rubber boots scoop up weathered, gelatinous oil with shovels and kitty-litter rakes and load them into garbage bags.
While sheen and tar balls remain offshore of the far Panhandle, wind is blowing the oil east. Large concentrations of oil moved toward Okaloosa and Walton counties.
An oil sheen was a mile south of the Pensacola Beach fishing pier.
"The good news is the wind seems to be turning for us," said Escambia County Commission Chairman Grover Robinson.
That's bad news for points east along the Panhandle.
With the moving oil, so goes the response and resources.
Brian Sibley, spokesman for the unified command for spill response, said there were two Shoreline Containment and Assessment Teams operating in Escambia County on Sunday. Each team has 40 members with a high level of training.
An additional 100 people worked in Qualified Community Responder teams out of Pensacola, with another 100 working out of Panama City. These members are trained, but less than SCAT members.
"This number will probably change" on Monday, Sibley said.
Will there be more people cleaning up in Florida?
"It really could go either way. They're deployed to areas of greatest need," Sibley said.
Unified command in Mobile, Ala., directs spill response in the Panhandle, Mississippi and Alabama.
Escambia officials remain disgruntled with the relief effort from BP.
Buck Lee, executive director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority, said what he's seeing on Pensacola Beach leaves much to be desired.
"You don't know if you're going to have no one or 25 show up and if they're only going to work for 15 minutes," Lee said.
Sibley said workers wearing heavy protective gear in the sunshine - and putting safety first - require breaks.
"They have to work in short shifts. Heat stress is a serious concern," he said. "They're tending to work in 30-minute shifts with fairly significant breaks in between."
Robinson said Escambia wants to take over beach cleanup itself.
"I don't think the job is being taken care of," Robinson said.
Robinson said parts of the crews are being hired through Workforce EscaRosa, and he said he was told more than 80 percent being hired for work here are Floridians.
"I don't think they have adequate supervision out there, I don't think they have adequate training," Robinson said. "We think we know a lot more about beach cleanup."