As oil continued to flow directly into the Gulf of Mexico this week from the Deepwater Horizon disaster – more than a month after the oilrig exploded and killed 11 workers on board – Capt. Pat DeQuattro of US Coast Guard Sector Key West appeared in Marathon to update the city council on response plans in the Florida Keys.
The meeting was led by Vice Mayor Mike Cinque, who opened the evening with a moment of silence to reflect on the preciousness of life.
“Our thoughts are with Mayor Ginger Snead, who as we speak, is attending a celebration of life for her father who just passed away,” Cinque informed.
DeQuattro called the accident “unprecedented in scope of volume and complexity”. Particularly in the Keys, where so many businesses are dependent on the tourism industry for their livelihood, he pointed out the unique awareness amongst the public regarding tarball sightings and staying up-to-date on the latest information.
After last week’s tarballs washed ashore in Key West, DeQuattro said the samples were immediately rushed to New London, Conn. Tarballs from Big Pine Key, Key West and the Dry Tortugas proved to be from multiple different sources, but none of which included the Deepwater Horizon rig.
“We’ve been actively responding to and cleaning up pollution as the reports came in,” DeQuattro stated. “Overall, there’ve been no more than 100 tarballs from approximately 30 individual reports so far.”
He continued that reports of a light sheen and scattered tarballs have entered the Loop Current – which is still hundreds of miles from the Florida Keys – and no definitive indicators report its approach in the near future.
Reports as of press time indicated this week’s “top kill” procedure – one designed to cap the leak in the well owned by British Petroleum – is “going as planned and moving along as everyone had hoped” according to U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who’s leading the government’s response to the oil.
DeQuattro told the council on Tuesday that with the unknown quantity of oil spewing into the Gulf until the leak is capped; the Coast Guard’s response plan is based on a strategy of adjustment as the latest information continues to reach the Florida Keys.
“We continue to refine this with regards to changes in the situation,” he concluded.
Andrew van Chau, a representative from BP, also appeared before the council and provided a direct line to file claims that was immediately posted to the city’s website.
“My focus here is going to be reaching out to various businesses and working with them in going through the claims process,” said van Chau as he introduced himself.
Councilman Pete Worthington pointed out that the $575 course fee for HAZMAT training requested from FKCC perplexed his fellow fishermen with boats at the ready for immediate response efforts.
“There was a grant given to the college in the amount of $10,000 to assist with training,” van Chau reported. “I have not heard about people being asked to pay for training, so thank you for bringing that to my attention.”
He continued by explaining the parameters of the company’s “Vessel of Opportunity” program that includes a four-hour training and charter agreement. If a boat owner agrees to enter the program, van Chau explained that BP would cover additional costs to continue the necessary training.
“But we were told last week that the oil could arrive within two weeks,” Worthington pointed out. “Seems to me like now’s the time to start with that training.”
Van Chau replied that the necessary training could be initiated within a few hours.
City Manager Roger Hernstadt encouraged Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Samess to coordinate with van Chau on conducting a claims procedure workshop for Middle Keys businesses.
BP Loss of Business Claims contact information is (800) 440-0858 or visit www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.