While visiting Eunice I spoke with offshore workers and their families. It was an intense seven hours of conversations done after a six-hour drive. Eunice is smalltown USA – with its share of quirky, colorful characters. The Louisiana Cajun culture is colorful in its own right. Thanks to Ryan Halter and his family I was given a unique peek.
The cover story will be on my interviews about one of the workers who died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. But there is so much more. Here are some of my notes:
“I don’t blame BP. We have to learn how to drill deeper if you want to drive your car.”
“BP is a real stickler. They have a JSA (Job Safety Assessment) for everything. They review everything. They talk everything over.”
“There are thousands of abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico. Each is plugged 14-feet below the sea bottom and the area is so smooth a fisherman can drag a shrimp net across it.”
Everyone knows nearly everybody in Eunice. You can stand of the front step and the homeowner can tell you about all her neighbors.
Deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico are new. “We don’t know much about it.”
“It is an expensive process. You drill for five-six days, then shut down and test everything. Each day costs BP $3 million. There is a huge incentive to cut corners.”
“Offshore work is very appealing. Very few positions require specialized training. You start at the bottom learning the ropes hands on. You wear a different color hard hat from the others so that everyone knows your new. You unload this, tie up that, fetch grocers. Someone is watching over you every single minute, telling you how to tighten bolts, etc. We call them “worms”–18 year olds, strong, capable but watched constant.”
Most workers are contract workers. There is no union, never will be. Over the past 20 year, workers were offered retirement plans. They’ve always had good medical plans. The workers are self-employed, but they work through a consulting fee that gets a percentage of their pay.
Rig workers believe someone on the rig knew something was wrong April 20 on Deepwater Horizon. “There had to be more than one clue. It’s life or death out there.” They had to be looking at the fluids and known something was wrong.
Many wished the paper graphs from the computers that monitored the well and the pressure had survived the explosion.
“There is plenty of blame to go around.”