What is the truth about the sand sifters

Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson was visibly upset today over British Petroleum not approving sand sifters for Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. He said that yesterday the Santa Rosa Island Authority held a demonstration for BP of the equipment, but the County had not heard back on whether BP would pay for the equipment that separates the tar balls from the sand.

“I don’t even know why we’re arguing about this,” said Robinson at today’s 9:30 a.m. press conference.

He was particularly upset after reading an article that the equipment had been approved for Orange Beach, Ala. (Read here).

After Robinson left, Ms. Lucia Bustamante, BP Director of Public Affairs, was immediately asked about the sand sifters. She shifted blame to SRIA and County saying that two pieces of equipment had been tested and that the County hasn’t told BP which one it prefers. She said the tests were necessary because the beaches at Orange Beach may not be the same as Pensacola Beach. She also said the manufacturer wasn’t sure if it had the equipment ready to be delivered. Then she also “threw against the wall” that any mechanical device would reduce the number of unemployed workers that BP has hired to do the clean-up.

Talk about dodging an issue. I pressed Ms. Bustamante about her now blaming the County for the delays in getting the equipment (the County has been asking for the sifters for five weeks, according to Robinson). She denied that BP was blaming anyone, just that time was need to evaluate the equipment.

I called Commissioner Robinson as soon as I left the EOC. He was completely flabbergasted by Bustamante’s statements and intended to call the SRIA manager Buck Lee to clear up any misunderstandings over what equipment the county is requesting.

Like Congressman Kendrick Meek said a few weeks ago, BP is “slow walking” this.