Long stretch of oil seen in Gulf of Mexico

Boat travels through oil spotted in West Bay just west of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River Friday October 22, 2010. photo by Matthew Hinton / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE

Environmentalists have repeatedly said there’s still oil out there and that the government was too quick to re-open fishing areas of the Gulf. Now there’s proof.

Louisiana fishermen have found a miles long string of floating oil that’s heading towards fragile marshes on the Mississippi River delta. According to the Times Picayune “boat captains working the BP clean-up effort said they have been reporting large areas of surface oil off the delta for more than a week but have seen little response from BP or the Coast Guard, which is in charge of the clean-up.”

One captain had reported that some strips were as much as 400 feet wide and a mile long.

Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil of the U.S. Coast Guard said a Coast Guard pollution investigator had collected samples near the mouth of Tiger Pass and, while those samples needed to be tested in a lab, “based on his observation and what he sees in the sample jars, he believes that to be an algal bloom.”

photo by Matthew Hinton, The Times-Picayune

While red algae blooms had indeed been seen last August on the delta and several of its sounds,  one boat captain who’d first reported the sightings as oil said Saturday said “I’ve never seen algae that looked orange, that was sticky, smelled like oil and that stuck to the boat and had to be cleaned off with solvent.”

The captain said he and others were also taking samples and sending them in for analysis.

However, a Times-Picayune photojournalist confirmed the sightings in an over-flight of the West Bay.

The secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Robert Barham, said if the sightings are confirmed by his agency, the area will be reclosed to fishing until it is confirmed oil-free again.

Given that the Coast Guard and BP so closely “protected” the information and photos that got out to the media and the public for so long after the oil spill, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this kind of “he-said, she-said” is taking place. Too bad “facts” so often take second place to saving face.

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