Sunday, March 7, 2021


One year later: Gulf Coast is still not whole…

April 22, 2011 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) Today marks the one-year anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster.

For 153 days, Gulf communities suffered as their economic, environmental and health care realities were shaken. Many of the area’s residents are still left with questions of when their lives will be restored. While BP’s efforts, under government supervision, have made some strides with some residents, many people in the Gulf are still greatly suffering.

One year later, thousands of Gulf residents not only have not been “made whole” from the disaster, but many have faced elevated levels of toxins in their bloodstreams, community conflicts, destruction of families, culture erosion, loss of property and, for many, an end to their way of life.

The disaster’s economic impact has been significant. Moderate testing has been done, yet efforts need continue to restore the now considerably-damaged confidence in Gulf seafood. In many communities, sales tax revenues stayed flat or decreased, while already-high unemployment rates rose. Opportunity Inc., a housing assistance program in Fort Walton, FL reported their revenues were reduced from nearly $11,000 per month to an average $3,000.

Since the disaster they have had to turn away six families for every one they can serve. BP has provided a modest level of support to community based organizations, but the company must significantly increase its support to organizations serving extensive Gulf community needs arising from the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon’s explosion.

Federal agencies continue to research long-term health effects of the oil drilling disaster, yet significant attention must be placed on addressing immediate well-being needs as well. The NAACP’s concern lies in both the short and long term impact of this exposure. We have spoken to many oil spill workers who cleaned beaches without the benefit of standardized protective gear. Volatile organic compounds have since been found in blood samples for Gulf residents. We need to implement systems that screen, diagnose, and treat health effects from toxic contact.

At a town hall meeting in Destin, one Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) petitioner introduced herself by way of her GCCF claim number. “My Name is 6508799,” she said, underscoring the feeling of many residents that they have been objectified and reduced to a number in a failed system which has yet to compensate for their losses.

At present, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility processes significantly disadvantage the claimant. Reforms must minimize hurdles facing financially devastated persons and provide comprehensive restitution in a timely fashion.

Many residents of devastated Gulf communities are nowhere near BP’s promised goals of “making the Gulf whole”. We must re-examine the entire system and, where needed, engage in significant overhaul. Reforms must be responsive to the needs articulated by the affected communities. They are resilient communities that have contributed so much to the American fabric. It is up to us to come to their aid when they need it most.

Written By Jacqui Patterson


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