History Repeats Itself?
Tar balls: Galveston's recovery from 1979 disaster gives hope for BP cleanup
Naysayers who worry the Gulf beaches of Louisiana and other southeastern states may never recover from the BP oil disaster can take hope from the example of what happened in Galveston, according to a fascinating NPR report.
The nearly eight minute story, on All Things Considered tonight, drew parallels between the current BP spill and a 1979 disaster, when a rig off the coast of Mexico, owned by the Mexican government, blew out, pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico and coating Texas beaches. The well was not capped for 10 months.
Galveston went on to suffer three oil spills in five years as well as the wrath of Hurricane Alicia. Cheryl Jenkins, manager of Hendley Market, recalled the beaches were peppered with tar balls, but the multiple disasters did not kill off the tourist industry.
"It was just a fact of life — I mean, there was just going to be tar. And you just had ways to clean it off your feet, you had baby oil and paper towels. And you just figured out ways to cope with it," Jenkins told NPR.
Galveston recovered. By the late-1980s, tourists were back and the local fishing industry was thriving again.
Of course, the BP disaster occurred from a much deeper well that spurted out a lot more oil. And the beaches of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were a lot more pristine than Galveston beaches ever were before the BP spill.
Even so, for those grasping for hope amid all the mess, the Galveston example is reassuring.
On a less optimistic — and probably more realistic note — a story in Thursday's New York Times asserts that the Gulf likely can't be salvaged. With 4,000 offshore oil and gas platforms in the central and western Gulf, at least a half million barrels of oil had been spilled offshore even before the April 20 BP explosion. In addition, the ocean floor is littered with bombs and chemical weapons while runoff and waste continually drains into the Gulf from the Mississippi River.
Makes one wistful for a time when tar balls seemed to be the only problem.
Anyone who spent a childhood in Galveston in the late '80s and early '90s has a tar ball removal story that likely includes the smell of Turpentine and lots of scrubbing. What's yours?
Hear the NPR story:
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