OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss., (Reuters) – Large patches of thick oil washed ashore in Mississippi yesterday, the first time crude from the BP Plc spill in the Gulf of Mexico has hit the state’s coast.
Oil hit two tourist beaches at Ocean Springs, about 10 miles (16 kilometres) east of Biloxi, and a beach used by fisherman that is close to an inland marsh. Wildlife officials picked up one pelican covered in oil.
State officials and the Coast Guard, who said they were expecting more oil to arrive, were waiting on BP contractors to start cleaning up.
“We cannot clean up or catch the oil until BP gets here. They have all of our people,” said Earl Etheridge, a spokesman for Mississippi’s Department of Environmental Quality. “We want to clean this up now. Maybe this will amp up BP’s effort but we can’t do anything because they have all the money.”
Efforts to contain and clean up oil from the massive spill are being handled jointly by federal, state and local officials and funded by the energy giant, leading to frustration among people whose coastlines are most at risk.
Louisiana’s fragile wetlands have been hardest hit by the oil but Mississippi had escaped damage until yesterday, although some oil has tainted its barrier islands. Oil has also come ashore in Alabama and Florida’s Gulf coast.