Gaetz report

The following is the Friday report from State Sen. Don Gaetz. The only exception I have is that we were told that BP initially responded with six two-man crews, but maybe they upped the number when BP heard girls in bikinis were on the beach:

For Immediate Release
June 4, 2010

Dear Neighbor,

Today, scattered tar balls and tar “patties” of up to 15 cm in diameter came ashore on Pensacola Beach, marking the first direct affect of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on the coast of Florida. This morning, eleven teams of 14 trained personnel each were on Pensacola Beach picking up and disposing of the tar today.

According to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole, with whom I spoke to a few minutes ago, more of the same is expected further east along Northwest Florida beaches over the next several days. Winds to the southwest are moving the oil plume to Panhandle waters.

View the expected trajectory of the plume.

On day 45 of this catastrophe, Secretary Sole reports there have not yet been any health affects to Floridians from air emissions or from contact with oil or oil products in the water. He advised me at noon today that air and water quality baselines have been established in order to identify changes and, in turn, have evidence that can be used to make claims against British Petroleum.

As you may have seen in media reports today, BP has installed what they call a “Top Hat” on top of the well head. Secretary Sole told me that if this “Top Hat” works as planned, it should “considerably reduce but not stop” the flow of oil.

Secretary Sole confirmed that, as yet, there have been no requests and no approvals for chemical dispersants to be used in the sovereign waters of Florida. My understanding is that these dispersants are really only effective on “fresh” oil, not on the weathered tarballs or “sheen” expected to come ashore in Northwest Florida.

I’ve attached for your information the booming and containment plans for the inland waterways and passes in our area. (See Walton County boom map | See Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa boom map) As you may expect, those plans are being improved and adjusted for changed conditions. While extraordinary efforts have been made by our local authorities working with DEP to mitigate damage, there is no scenario of which I am aware that guarantees there won’t be some penetration into some of our inland waterways.

Within the past three days, I have consulted with former Attorney General Jim Smith who has been designated by the Governor to ensure that Florida workers, businesses and units of government are made whole by British Petroleum in terms of damage claims. Based on experiences of some Northwest Floridians, it seems that the claims process needs substantial improvement. For example, I’ve asked Attorney General Smith to help homeowner and condominium associations be able to utilize one person, like the association manager or president, to deal with BP on behalf of all members for damage claims.

There is a spot of good news. Tomorrow (Saturday), the Navarre Pier will be opened following reconstruction necessitated by tremendous hurricane damage. This structure is the longest pier in Florida and the longest in the Gulf of Mexico. The reconstruction is the result of a dogged commitment by Santa Rosa County officials and funding provided by federal, state and local government. So, if you’re in the area, and you want to help inaugurate what will be a wonderful asset to our area, come to Navarre Beach at 9 am tomorrow.

Thanks to all of those who are working so hard to protect Florida and to address the environmental and economic consequences of this tragedy. We will continue to report to you as there is more information. Meanwhile, please log onto your county’s website or contact your local Emergency Operations Center with any questions.


Senator Don Gaetz