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, Iâm not really a speech-giver. You guys try to bear with me; Iâll 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 didnât 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
âBP does business rightâ
Yeah! Can you believe that? âBP does business right and weâre here to take care of everything, folks.â
Well, 61 days later, thatâs a joke, to say the least. Just to give you guys kind of perspective of where Iâve 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 âenemy lines.â 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? Itâs 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. Iâve 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 whatâs 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 Husbandâs a Commercial Fisherman. Every man that Iâve known, loved, and respected is on the water. Theyâre good men.
At any rate, for the past week Iâve heard in the OPS meeting âWe need to cut costs.â
(audience response incredulous)
Yes, (nodding head) Thatâs what theyâve said, that they need to cut costs.
I almost came out of my chair the first time I heard it, but Iâm trying to stay where I am because someone has to be on the inside overlooking and seeing as to whatâs going on around. That being said, where Iâve seen âcutting costsâ is quite unfortunate. What we call in Veniceâ¦ First we gotta understand this phrase: âPonies and balloons.â
Well, the only place I’ve ever seen âponies and balloonsâ is at the circus. Right? At any rate, about a week and half in, I learned what âponies and balloonsâ meant. âPonies and balloonsâ 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, âgood job, fellasâ (waves), pats âem on the back. When that official disappears out of the hardest hit area, so does 75%-80% of the response.
Itâs happening. Itâs happening every day. Iâm watching it. Iâve seen it. I donât agree with it. Anyone in this roomâs not gonna agree with it. Anyone in our great nationâs not gonna agree with it.
We are expendable to these people. We do not matter.
Now, Iâm gonna get off that. Iâm sorry I talk in circles, but thatâs the coonass in me. Yâall following me, just let me know..
At any rate, Iâm gonna go into the health issues for a moment, if you donât mind.
Iâve sat through endless hours of meetings with BPâs safety officers. Iâve 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 â now this isnât just Commercial Fishermen â Iâm 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. Everythingâs OK. Itâs great. (incredulous) Yeah, imagine that.
At any rate, there is in fact some act somewhere, OSHAâs law, that volunteers have a right to wear a âvolunteer respirator.â
BUT, as we all know, BP has taken over our Gulf. BP rules right now, our Gulf. Bottom line, thatâs whoâs in charge of the situation. (raises volume and pitch) They couldnât even run their own company and they are in charge of this response!
Iâm totally appalled!
They canât wear a âvolunteer respiratorâ because they arenât properly trained. BPâs 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 thingâs OK. (according to the EPA) So, they donât need to be trained and they donât need a respirator. And as far as the âright to wear volunteer respiration?â Guess what? If you donâ t follow BPâs rules, you donât have a job. And thatâs 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, âYes Maâam, we are.â
I guess these guys didnât realize who they were talking to.
Number 1 response from Mr Hayward was food poisoning. Four different boats, all in â¦ way , way from each other. Food poisoning.
Second response was heat exhaustion.
Then last Wednesday â Iâm sorry, Wednesday a week ago â 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 thatâs what caused the chemical poisoning.
Hold on a second! Iâve been on boats all my life. Iâve 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, itâs 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, âWeâre not wearing a respirator, weâre looking for our friends.â
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 sheâs just a great grandparent and a good Mom, and I told her, âMiss Marla, we have got to call an evacuation of our area. We can not allow our citizens to sit like weâre out in the middle of the â we are, this is on all three sides of my home â I walk outside and thereâs a haze. Theyâre called âbad air days.â âFolks, stay inside, put your air conditioning on recirculation. Everythingâs just fine.â
Why would we need to lock ourselves up in our house? You really think thatâs gonna cut it? Do you really think thatâs gonna make the situation better? No. Itâs not. Where do you think the air thatâs 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 Louisianaâs population , but does that make my people expendable?!
This is unacceptable!
They are slowly poisoning every person that Iâve ever been close to in my entire life and Iâm standing here saying NO MORE!
Now, if I ruffle some feathers, and make some people mad. So be it. I donât care. My people are more important to me than their âbottom line.â And that is *my* bottom line.
So basically, this whole âponies and balloonsâ act â if someone does not come in and properly oversee this response â our marsh now is being used as a boom. an overworked (?) boom, a big, giant sponge. Itâs 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 âem back in when the politicians leave and this is not acceptable!
Theyâre not cleaning it up; theyâre covering it up! This is, weâre 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 sittinâ in this room today.
Enough is enough!
Now, as far as EPA, OSHA, NOAA, BP, and the federal government , they every one of themâs in collaboration with each other. That comes from someone at the top of NOAA. Thatâs who Iâve been talking to. They gave me someone at the top of NOAA. But, theyâre 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 â¦ 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 âNothingâs happening. Nothingâs dyinâ. 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. Iâve 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 wasnât being done there, that I got in my boat â my dime, my time, â 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 whatâs going on. I ran into oil 3/4 of mile off the coast. Not sheen. Crude. As Iâm driving along back towards Red Pass (Pass or Path?) I look over the Gulf and I notice that thereâs big swarms of birds. Thatâs not unusual. I figured they was diving on bait. But what where they diving into oil sheen? Because birds donât know any better. Weâre 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 donât know if youâve been out on the water much, if youâve 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 isnât down there.)
Thatâs a real good question. Fox national news swears itâs on their website, but Iâve search it up and down. Iâve even, you know what. Iâve got the camera manâs phone number in my purse right there. we can call him after and find out exactly where itâs at. Iâve already been asking for it over and over again.
And they wonât give it to me. You know what? Everybody saying a âmedia blackout,â âa media blackout.â Yes maâam there is a media blackout. Um. Sydney, Australia â60 minutesâ 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, âcause Iâve 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 âNO MORE!â 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 worldâs 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 âinfinity+2â³
Iâll take any questions after. Thank you for listening.