Saturday, June 5, 2010

Beachgoers urged to stay out of water

Oil washes ashore on Alabama beaches; scent fills air

The Associated Press
Four-year-old Reid Manning plays in the foam that gathered on the beach in Gulf Shores on Friday.
By Jay Reeves The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 4, 2010 at 10:41 p.m.
GULF SHORES | State health officials warned beachgoers to stay out of Alabama's coastal waters Friday as

reddish-brown gobs of oil washed ashore for the first time, prompting a ban on fishing as well.
The announcement by State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson, along with the scent of oil hanging in the air along the shore, cast a pall over the summer tourist season.
“We're strongly encouraging people not to get into the water because we have visible oil at Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan and we anticipate it moving eastward,” he said. “These are precautionary measures to protect the public's health.”
He said the advisory to stay out of the water covered all the beachfront from Mississippi to the Florida line, as well as bay waters at historic Fort Morgan on Baldwin County's shore. The ban on fishing covers all Gulf waters on the Alabama coast, as well as waters on the eastern side of Mobile Bay.
Meanwhile, Gov. Bob Riley says he's frustrated with the Coast Guard's response on the state's coast and will consider closing the beaches if the oil washing ashore becomes a public health threat.
Riley held a news conference in Mobile on Friday afternoon after a meeting with President Barack Obama and others in Louisiana.
The governor accused the Coast Guard of a string of broken promises, with adequate boom, skimmers and other protections shifted elsewhere and not provided to Alabama. He said Obama ordered the incident commander, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, to visit Alabama and Florida today.
Riley said it's time for the Coast Guard to make hard choices and treat every state fairly.

The state health officer said his office was swamped with reports of oil hitting the state's coast on Friday.
“The phone hasn't stopped ringing for two hours,” Williamson said.
Health officials say it's best to stay away from oil on the beach or in the water, but limited exposure is not considered reason to see a doctor. Prolonged exposure to large amounts of the toxic substance, however, can lead to serious health problems.
The gobs and strands of oil arrived along with the faint, noxious smell of oil as a southwest wind blew in from BP's spreading oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.
“You don't smell the beach breeze at all,” said Wendi Butler, 40, out for her morning stroll.
“I really smelled it down there,” said Jennifer Powell, combing the beach for shells with her husband. “It was like it was burning my nose a little bit.”
The Powells, from Russellville, Ky., planned to return to the beach later this summer, but now they're not sure they want to come back.
“You won't be able to get in the water, and it's going to get all over you and all,” she said. “I don't think I want my kids in that.”
Butler said she moved to Perdido Bay from Mobile days before the spill. Now, her two kids don't want to visit because of the oil and she can't find a job.
“Restaurants are cutting back to their winter staffs because of it. They're not hiring,” she said.
The oil globs that hit Alabama beaches were accompanied by a dense, dark foam that gathered in pools and remained for hours. It was brownish in color and felt oily. Scientists aren't sure what the foam is, but it seems to be linked to the spill, said Monty Graham, a researcher with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

“It always seems to proceed oil coming ashore in all the various places by a couple of days. It's like an outer halo of activity,” he said.
Foam found in Louisiana tested negative for the hydrocarbons typically found in oil, Graham said, “but that doesn't mean it's not associated with the spill.”
Some believe the foam could be residue from dispersants used at the site of the well or the remains of microscopic sea life killed by the spill, he said.

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