Kindra Arnesan, wife of one of the fisherman who became ill while working the BP clean-up effort, speaks out. She gave this speech at a Gulf Emergency Conference. See the transcript and you will see what “ponies & balloons” means. I have bolded it.
Transcript of speech (via Democratic Underground):
OK, I’m not really a speech-giver. You guys try to bear with me; I’ll try to make this as painless as possible.
To explain to you where I live, I am indeed the one on the very end. I am at Point 5 on Highway 23 in South Plaquamines Parish, Louisiana. Keep in mind through what I have to say, is that I am the mother of a five year old little boy and an eight year old girl who look like their Dad.
That being said, when this first happened, I really didn’t know what to do. Who to ask questions to. Who was going to give us answers. The first day we were introduced to anyone from BP they came into our building and said
“BP does business right”
Yeah! Can you believe that? “BP does business right and we’re here to take care of everything, folks.”
Well, 61 days later, that’s a joke, to say the least. Just to give you guys kind of perspective of where I’ve been, four weeks ago, I set up at a town all meeting at IND pinned down all involved (inaudible 1:16 ) and I am disturbed bye the end of their speech. At any rate, I was invited the following week to go behind “enemy lines.” They gave me, of all people, security clearance to go into the base of operations meetings in Venice, Louisiana eight days in. Open door invitation to sit like a fly on the wall. Can you believe it? It’s really going on. They also gave me security clearance to go up to the Homer Incident Command Post which is over the entire region of Louisiana. I’ve been in Coast Guard planes all the way out to the site itself. Helicopters. Boat rides. I have been everywhere that anybody could ever want to go to get an inside look at what’s really going on.
Now, I want to start by telling you guys I am not at all impressed. Someone told me this morning that they thought I had crossed over. Well, I picked a team a long time ago. My Father was a Commercial Fisherman. And my Husband’s a Commercial Fisherman. Every man that I’ve known, loved, and respected is on the water. They’re good men.
At any rate, for the past week I’ve heard in the OPS meeting “We need to cut costs.”
(audience response incredulous)
Yes, (nodding head) That’s what they’ve said, that they need to cut costs.
I almost came out of my chair the first time I heard it, but I’m trying to stay where I am because someone has to be on the inside overlooking and seeing as to what’s going on around. That being said, where I’ve seen “cutting costs” is quite unfortunate. What we call in Venice… First we gotta understand this phrase: “Ponies and balloons.”
Well, the only place I’ve ever seen “ponies and balloons” is at the circus. Right? At any rate, about a week and half in, I learned what “ponies and balloons” meant. “Ponies and balloons” means that every time an official is headed anywhere near here, they get a heads up.. All assets are deployed into the hardest hit areas. The official comes in, flies over, “good job, fellas” (waves), pats ‘em on the back. When that official disappears out of the hardest hit area, so does 75%-80% of the response.
It’s happening. It’s happening every day. I’m watching it. I’ve seen it. I don’t agree with it. Anyone in this room’s not gonna agree with it. Anyone in our great nation’s not gonna agree with it.
We are expendable to these people. We do not matter.
Now, I’m gonna get off that. I’m sorry I talk in circles, but that’s the coonass in me. Y’all following me, just let me know..
At any rate, I’m gonna go into the health issues for a moment, if you don’t mind.
I’ve sat through endless hours of meetings with BP’s safety officers. I’ve sat through an hour and 45 minute meeting with the Coast Guard Safety Officers, both in the Homer Incident Command Post, as well as a gentleman from OSHA.
In order to obtain a respirator for our responders — now this isn’t just Commercial Fishermen — I’m talking about Coast Guard members, all responders, people off the street. Everybody involved.
Number 1: They have to fill out an OSHA questionnaire
Number 2: They have to have a physical evaluation by a medical professional.
But, EPA is doing air monitoring. Everything’s OK. It’s great. (incredulous) Yeah, imagine that.
At any rate, there is in fact some act somewhere, OSHA’s law, that volunteers have a right to wear a “volunteer respirator.”
BUT, as we all know, BP has taken over our Gulf. BP rules right now, our Gulf. Bottom line, that’s who’s in charge of the situation. (raises volume and pitch) They couldn’t even run their own company and they are in charge of this response!
I’m totally appalled!
They can’t wear a “volunteer respirator” because they aren’t properly trained. BP’s rules are that they have to be properly trained in order to wear a respirator. Now, BP said that they will provide the training and they will provide a respirator.
BUT, every thing’s OK. (according to the EPA) So, they don’t need to be trained and they don’t need a respirator. And as far as the “right to wear volunteer respiration?” Guess what? If you don’ t follow BP’s rules, you don’t have a job. And that’s what they told me.
Now, I asked them to discuss the seven men that were brought, one by helicopter and six by ambulance. I asked them if they were at liberty to discuss that with me. And they said, “Yes Ma’am, we are.”
I guess these guys didn’t realize who they were talking to.
Number 1 response from Mr Hayward was food poisoning. Four different boats, all in … way , way from each other. Food poisoning.
Second response was heat exhaustion.
Then last Wednesday — I’m sorry, Wednesday a week ago — when I sat with OSHA and BP safety officers, the OSHA man informed me that all four boats took Pine-Sol, sprayed it all over their boats, and then sat and breathed in the fumes all day long and that’s what caused the chemical poisoning.
Hold on a second! I’ve been on boats all my life. I’ve been with captains all over the place. When we spray something on our boat, we wash it right off. If not, it eats the paint off the boat. We take care of ourselves. So that right there was just a blatant out lie.
So, then I asked them, throwed one out of left field at them. I said, so what about the people of 9/11? He said, it’s funny you asked about that. Because I was working that job. We were following them around with respirators, begging them to put them on. And he actually pointed the finger at our New York Firefighters.
They are dying a slow death as we sit in this room right now from chemical poisoning. Pointing the finger at them and saying that they turned around and gave him the one finger salute. And said, “We’re not wearing a respirator, we’re looking for our friends.”
Trained firefighters? In New York? Are you serious?
I wanted to just slap him in the face! But, I was good.
At any rate, you know, my children have broke out in four rashes. My child broke out in a rash the first time. I took her to Florida for four days. It magically cleared up. I brought her back, she broke out again. I left, she cleared up. Now today, she broke out again. Not to mention that my beautiful, healthy, straight-A student, gorgeous daughter has a double-ear infection. Upper respiratory problems. I left and went to Baton Rouge, and as I drove back home, clearing the throat, the stickiness, the upper respiratory irritation.
You know, the bottom line here is this morning I contacted Miss Marla Cooper who is District 9 Councilwoman for Plaquamines Parish. And Miss Marla has three grandchildren in our area and she’s just a great grandparent and a good Mom, and I told her, “Miss Marla, we have got to call an evacuation of our area. We can not allow our citizens to sit like we’re out in the middle of the — we are, this is on all three sides of my home — I walk outside and there’s a haze. They’re called “bad air days.” “Folks, stay inside, put your air conditioning on recirculation. Everything’s just fine.”
Why would we need to lock ourselves up in our house? You really think that’s gonna cut it? Do you really think that’s gonna make the situation better? No. It’s not. Where do you think the air that’s inside the house comes from? Outside of the house.
These people, they never cease to amaze me. The lack of humanity, here. I know that my Parish only makes up two percent (2%) of Louisiana’s population , but does that make my people expendable?!
This is unacceptable!
They are slowly poisoning every person that I’ve ever been close to in my entire life and I’m standing here saying NO MORE!
Now, if I ruffle some feathers, and make some people mad. So be it. I don’t care. My people are more important to me than their “bottom line.” And that is *my* bottom line.
So basically, this whole “ponies and balloons” act — if someone does not come in and properly oversee this response — our marsh now is being used as a boom. an overworked (?) boom, a big, giant sponge. It’s on both sides of us. It will fill up, it is filling up, constantly. We have heavy, heavy crude penetrating our marsh right now as we speak. They deploy , and then they pull ‘em back in when the politicians leave and this is not acceptable!
They’re not cleaning it up; they’re covering it up! This is, we’re barely into this. This could go on for years and years and they are already cutting costs! Cutting costs, cutting corners, taking shortcuts is why we are all sittin’ in this room today.
Enough is enough!
Now, as far as EPA, OSHA, NOAA, BP, and the federal government , they every one of them’s in collaboration with each other. That comes from someone at the top of NOAA. That’s who I’ve been talking to. They gave me someone at the top of NOAA. But, they’re all in collaboration with BP.
Are you serious!?!
Who do these people work for? I thought these were our agencies to protect our better interests, our world, our Earth, our lives and what is going on here? Are we that dependent upon these … banks? to just roll over and let them poison our world? and our people in it?
This is unacceptable.
A week after this started they wanna say “Nothing’s happening. Nothing’s dyin’. A week after the story, I traveled 70 miles east of the original site/ There was these shells floating all over the top of the water. Hundreds of thousands of them. They were empty because they were dead. I’ve never seen a shell float in my life. Dead. A week after.
Four weeks ago when the oil was trajected to hit the west side of our peninsula. I was so mad after I went down to Pascaloocha and seeing what wasn’t being done there, that I got in my boat — my dime, my time, — and I took a trip. I was like (almost invited?) FOX national news on my boat. I traveled 10 miles from Red Pass to four bayous, to the east side of Grand Isle. Now the oil was trajected to hit that side of the peninsula.
30 miles! I did not run into one responder. I did not run into one piece of boom, hard or soft. 150 feet of sandbags on 150 miles stretch of shoreline.
This is unacceptable.
So, I decided on the way back, well let me just go out from the coast a little bit and see what’s going on. I ran into oil 3/4 of mile off the coast. Not sheen. Crude. As I’m driving along back towards Red Pass (Pass or Path?) I look over the Gulf and I notice that there’s big swarms of birds. That’s not unusual. I figured they was diving on bait. But what where they diving into oil sheen? Because birds don’t know any better. We’re driving out towards the birds. I wanted to see what they were diving into. I wanted to know. As we get out to the birds, I don’t know if you’ve been out on the water much, if you’ve seen a big school of fish. They have like a boil on the water. It looks like a pot boiling. The fish boil the water with their moves. As we drove into it, there was big Bull Reds (Bull Mouths?) with their mouths on top of the water , laying sideways , swimming upside down in a circle. Again, hundreds of thousands of them, school after school after school. They were dying. They were so disoriented that they were running into the side of my boat.
(audience member asks why the news isn’t down there.)
That’s a real good question. Fox national news swears it’s on their website, but I’ve search it up and down. I’ve even, you know what. I’ve got the camera man’s phone number in my purse right there. we can call him after and find out exactly where it’s at. I’ve already been asking for it over and over again.
And they won’t give it to me. You know what? Everybody saying a “media blackout,” “a media blackout.” Yes ma’am there is a media blackout. Um. Sydney, Australia “60 minutes” came over and they did a real nice piece. I watched it on their website. The transcript is still there. 24 hours after the video hit the website, it disappeared.
You know, as far as the Fisherman can catch shrimp elsewhere comment, I want to make something real clear. We have bee fighting imports and regulations for the last 20 years. They have regulated us to the point as Commercial Fisherman, that my husband personally has seven different permits. The only thing that my husband does not do is oyster. So, if there is shrimp somewhere else, or we can use gill net or whatever we need to do in order to provide a food source for this country, a natural way to feed people, then somebody point me in that direction and let me know where it is, ’cause I’ve looked all over the place.
I came back here four and a half years ago and rebuilt on dirt because this is my home and I love Louisiana . I live right out in the middle of nowhere, boondocks. The bottom line here is, that if the country does not stand up and say “NO MORE!” we must take action. we cannot sit back, and if this stuff does not stop guys, this is gonna go global. It will destroy 1/3 of the world’s water. Bank on it. They do not stop this, ever ocean is connected. It will go on and on and on as my daughter says “infinity+2″
I’ll take any questions after. Thank you for listening.