Coast Guard Grounds Ships Involved in Oil Cleanup After 7 Fall Ill; BP Reportedly Preventing Fishermen from Wearing Respirators
BP proves themselves to be once again looking out for nothing but their own liability, even if it means the lives of those who are working for them like these out of work fishermen they recruited for the oil cleanup. One more reason this should be looking at criminal charges against these companies. From Democracy Now.
At least seven fishermen involved in the cleanup of the BP oil spill were hospitalized on Wednesday after reporting nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains. The fishermen were likely exposed to both the leaked oil and chemical dispersants. As a precautionary measure, the Coast Guard has ordered all 125 commercial ships helping with the cleanup to return to land. For weeks, cleanup crews hired by BP have been reporting health issues, but their complaints have largely been ignored. We speak to Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, and Albert Huang, an environmental justice attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In Louisiana, seven fishermen involved in the cleanup of the BP oil spill were hospitalized on Wednesday after reporting nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains. The crew members were working aboard three separate vessels. The fishermen were likely exposed to both the leaked oil and chemical dispersants. As a precautionary measure, the Unified Command has ordered all 125 commercial ships helping with the cleanup in Breton Sound, Louisiana to return to land.
For weeks, cleanup crews hired by BP have been reporting health issues, but their complaints have largely been ignored. As recently as Tuesday, BP spokesperson Graham MacEwen told the Los Angeles Times he was unaware of any health complaints among cleanup workers. BP has refused to provide respirators to many hired fishermen, and the company has reportedly threatened to fire workers who use their own respirators on the job.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now in New Orleans by Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. He’s a third-generation shrimp fisherman.
This is Democracy Now! We welcome you to the studios of Democracy Now!, though we’re speaking to you in New Orleans. Tell us what’s happening, Clint.
CLINT GUIDRY: Well, good morning. Thanks for having me.
This is a situation that has been ongoing for several weeks now. Having had prior training and experience working with the oil and the chemicals in oil and their danger—[no audio]—several of the fishermen out on the worksite, they were complaining of burning eyes and strong smells. And my experience told me that they were getting exposed to dangerous chemicals—the benzenes, all the light ends off the crude—and this Corexit is a new experience for me. I have been doing some research. It contains a substance called 2-butoxyethanol, up to 60 percent by volume, which is a very, very dangerous chemical. I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but just doing the research. And I knew that they spraying this chemical in the same area where my fishermen were working. And I have brought this to light. I have tried to make public. As a matter of fact, just a couple of days ago, three days ago, I met with a Washington delegation in Galliano and expressed my concerns that this was happening.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, Clint Guidry, what about OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration? Aren’t they supposed to be monitoring worksites that involve US companies, even if they’re offshore?
CLINT GUIDRY: I’m not sure about that, but I’m understanding it’s MMS and US Coast Guard in this situation.
AMY GOODMAN: What about respirators? Are people wearing respirators?
CLINT GUIDRY: No, ma’am. Having had prior experience, I know these people. They’re friends. They’re family. I bought respirators, and I brought them down to these people. And when they tried to wear them, the BP representatives on site told them that it wasn’t a dangerous situation, and they didn’t need to wear them, and if they did, they would be taken off the job.
AMY GOODMAN: If they wore respirators, they’d be taken off the job?
CLINT GUIDRY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
CLINT GUIDRY: Because BP lies, and BP protects BP. And that is the biggest problem we have in the south of Louisiana right now, is BP, with its big oil big money, is buying up all the cover—and when I say "cover" I mean camouflage—that they can to try to make a little of the situation, not only environmentally, but health-wise. This is ridiculous.
AMY GOODMAN: But how does wearing respirators threaten BP? How do the workers, the cleanup crews, wearing respirators, how does that threaten BP?
CLINT GUIDRY: If you would do your research, the same situation occurred with Exxon Valdez over twenty years ago. It is a question of liability. The minute BP declares that there is a respiratory danger on the situation is the day that they let the door open for liability suits down the line. If they could have gotten away with covering this up, like they did in Alaska Valdez situation, like Exxon, they would not have to pay a penny for any kind of health-related claims.