EOC: 9:30 press conference notes

The EOC folks look worn out. The stress is starting to show as the battle against the BP black tide is being fought on our beaches and waterways. Commissioner Grover Robinson reported that Pensacola Pass is clear this morning and that BP skimmers had worked through the night in the Gulf to keep the oil out of Pensacola Bay.

The lack of communication between the County EOC, BP and the Unified Command is still an issue.

“We’re into day 53 and it feels like we’re working in parallel tracks,” said Robinson. “I’m not sure if the problem is the Unified Command. I minored in history and during World War II, we had a strong centralized command, but there were good field officers who could make decisions.

This is run more like a Soviet-style. Every decision has to be brought to the Unified Command. This structure has not provided for any flexibility.”

Robinson said that county has tried to be a team player, but “I’m not sure we’ve ever felt like we’re part of the team.”

One area of contention is the booming of Bayou Texar. A BP and its contractor are responsible for that bayou and had only place single boom there. The County is working to get more boom at Bayou Texar.

Mayor Mike Wiggins was asked about why the City seems to be taking a more passive approach to the booming and letting the county and BP handle it. Across Pensacola Bay, the City of Gulf Breeze has taken a much more aggressive stance, having bought its own boom and skimmer.

Wiggins said that the city staff does have a booming plan and that if necessary he would recommend that City spend whatever is necessary to protect its bayous and shores. Councilman P.C. Wu agreed.

Note: Commissioner Robinson posted this message on the blog: “Bayou Texar is not with the county contractor. Instead the city went with the BP contractor. I would feel much more confident if it were with the county. I will say that the county on its own and as a show of support with the city, will or has placed absorbant boom behind the initial boom. I asked that question this morning and was given that answer. I am concerned about Bayou Texar since it is not with the county.”

Other issues:
Heat-related injuries: EOC reported that clean-up workers were having heat-related issues and they needed to take more breaks and stay hydrated. I asked who was responsible for looking after the safety of these workers. Commissioner Robinson said that it was BP and its contractor. Lucia Bustamante, BP spokesperson, said that they getting the workers out on the beaches earlier and rotating their shifts.

Navigation of the passes: EOC has asked boats to idle their speeds down when they approach skimmers and boom. Their wakes could push oil towards our shores.

Questions were asked about the decontamination of fishing boats – for whom this may be their last good fishing weekend. Robinson said that he wasn’t satisfied with the decontamination plans – which were to be done never the ranger station on Santa Rosa Island.

Local solutions: Robinson remains upset that local ideas aren’t being used by BP. He talked about how beach resident Robert Luper had devised a better way to pick up tar balls using a PVC pipe and a cat litter scoop. “People are coming up with solutions. We aren’t just giving our complaints, but we have tried to leave solutions. I believe local government can be part of the solution. There’s nobody who wants to be.”

Robinson did say that he believes BP is “learning and slowly evolving.”

Bustamante agreed. “I want to improve our relationships here.” She says that she can be conduit to operations and that BP is improving, but they have never seen anything at this scale.

I would did like is that not only the media, but the local officials used the press conference as a chance to ask Bustamante questions.