Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tar Balls on the Beach, Make it hard to Make Ends Meat

           For the majority of people living in the United States the catastrophic oil break that busted into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 has brought only minor changes to their daily lives, if any at all. However, for the left over lives that populate the areas directly affected by the MC252 spill, the world has been turned upside down.
        While oil from the spill continues to tarnish shores and suffocate marine life throughout the Gulf, in cases like that of Perdido Key, Florida, it has brought a cancer to the local economy as well. “I don’t know how to explain it, things are just different, I mean at there should be traffic on the Gulf Coast, instead it's practically empty," said 20 year-old Ian Mayes, a Perdido Local. "Before the spill there would be coach buses just lined up and down the Pheonix Hotels taking in students and travelers.”
          For locals living in an area referred to by many as a resort town, like the majority of Florida’s southern stretching coastal communities, tar balls on the beach are making it virtually impossible to make ends meat.
"I started working for Perdido Key Parasail in 2006 as a summer job, and I came back every summer because it was fun,” said Mayes. “Sitting on the beach for 14 hours straight, meeting people, jet-skiing, parasailing, being on the boat, I loved it."
          For Mayes, the loss of one job led into another via the VOO program, Vessels of Opportunity, sponsored by British Petroleum. The program was designed to help create jobs for local marine workers by employing them to clean the spill. “I've been working on one of the oil spotting boats for about two months now,since around the time when I had to stop working at my last job," said Mayes. "The work I’m doing now is easy, I mean it's ridiculous, I make $200 a day to go around on a boat and spot oil, the money is good but I'd much rather be doing something I love."
          Unlike Louisiana where the spill unleashed its initial fury without remorse or warning, parts of Florida had time to prepare. However, with the channel of command between the state, local and federal government’s blocked by political procedure, the wells of aid were caught in an unsynchronized current that acted more like a damn than the necessary resevoir of relief. “We knew about the oil spill, but we kept going because we hadn’t been affected by it yet, then about a week before we stopped the operation our boat was literally running through huge globs, glooms of oil," said Mayes. "We'd get back to shore and it would be all over the boat, people could see it from the parasails, we had to stop.”
         Oil spills of the past seem like miniature fire drills in comparison to the magnitude of damage brought by the current spill, a mess which continues to reach record breaking proportions as the drama drags on almost four months later. And so, while the VOO program is one of Bp's efforts to make right a tragic wrong, in the eyes of most of the local community it won't be enough until they regain their way of life. “I should still be at work on the beach, super sunburned, I’d give anything for things to go back to the way they were, I don't care about the money, I'd give it all back," said Mayes.