Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pain in Grand Isle

On the 100th day after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the people of Grand Island are angry. At least, the two dozen who showed up to a meeting with the local BP representative on Thursday night are angry. Voices were raised, and one woman cried.
"People are scared," said Mayor David Camardelle. "They think BP is going to pull out. They don't know how they are going to pay the rent."
Residents spent an hour sharing a spectrum of worries while sitting in rows of hard purple chairs under the fluorescent lights of the community center. They said that they are getting sick, that they aren't being hired to do the work, and that BP is spraying dispersant every night -- but all that does is sink the oil, so they will keep having to deal with it. Karen Hopkins, who runs the office at the currently-nonoperational Dean Blanchard Seafood and dock, said that her reimbursement check got dramatically reduced the day after an interview that she gave aired on CBS. Blanchard himself stood up and shouted that his dock wasn't being used for any cleanup efforts, when usually at this time of year it is a hub for fishermen.

At the front of the room, BP representative Jason French sat wearing a blue shirt and an impassive expression, taking the heat and occasionally addressing issues. "I can promise you that your checks weren't cut because you gave an interview," he said to Hopkins -- adding that anyone, including contracted cleanup workers, is free to speak to the media. Perhaps her paperwork had been re-evaluated, he said. Perhaps a mistake had been made. He would look into it.

Grand Isle, a barrier island turned edgewise toward the gulf, has been hard-hit by the spill. Cleanup workers are still on the beaches, which are barricaded with orange plastic fencing. Those fishermen who can't get jobs collecting oil are out of work. Last weekend the community had to cancel their prized fishing tournament, the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, for the first time since 1928.

Residents' anger shows up in dozens of signs posted along the islands single main road. "BP, we want our beach back," says one on handpainted plywood. Another, professionally printed on yellow plastic, reads, "Cannot fish or swim. How the hell are we supposed to feed our kids now?"

In the video below, Dean Blanchard is the cajun who does all the speaking from the audience. The man has lost $15 million dollars of business in Grand Isle and now can't pay his bills because of BP's ineptitude and the fact that they are hiring ousiders to do the cleanup and even bringing in their own fuel to sell to the boats cleaning up.

The frustration and pain in Blanchard's voice towards the end of the clip is very moving.

H/T: Riki Ott

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