Video: oil beneath sand at Fort Pickens Pensacola Beach

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74wULDaidyY]

It’s possible that sand keeps washing in from the ocean and redepositing atop the oil. However, if that’s the case, then this kind of video does not bode well for BP’s overall clean-up effort.

Are they just removing some of the oil, then leaving once the sand washes back over the remaining pollution?

Like I’ve said, I contacted BP about this, and I’m still waiting to hear back from them.

Update: The ever-excellent Karen Dalton-Beninato has posted an update on the story here with a response issued today from the Coast Guard. They claim that the gathering, relocating, and dumping of sand are all part of a cleaning process that includes the temporary storing of sand in piles for “later cleaning”:

“There is a long-term treatment plan for Grand Isle which includes the collection and washing of oiled sand including buried oil. Part of this plan includes collecting and storing oiled sand in piles for later cleaning. At no time has clean sand been used by clean-up crews to cover or bury oil or oiled sand,” said Don Ballard, operations director for the Grand Isle branch.

The press release also states that, “Coast Guard crews throughout the Deepwater Horizon response branches in Louisiana are checking deployed boom and surveying for additional oil deposits after heavy weather moved through the area beginning Sunday, June 27. Heavy winds and waves have blown sand across beaches, burying oil and boom. Reports of damaged and stranded boom have been received from Plaquemines, Terrebonne, Iberia, Jefferson and Lafourche parishes. Crews are beginning a systematic effort to repair any boom that has been damaged. Heavy waves have eroded sand along beaches exposing oil that had been buried by natural sand build-up along the coasts. Beaches in Grand Isle, La., in particular, have had sand eroded away exposing buried oil.”

If this is true, it certainly would have been easier to ascertain had the infamous 65-foot rule never been implemented. The Coast Guard obviously concurs, since they lifted the “no journalists allowed” rule for a special one-day only bonanza in which the media could observe the Grand Isle team up close.

But the question still remains: Why is a private corporation allowed to commandeer public servants like the Coast Guard and local law enforcement to bully and intimidate the press?

On this Independence Day, let’s remember that journalists remain crouched 65-feet away from the worst environmental tragedy in the country’s history, while the government permits a private corporation to suspend the First Amendment  because it may damage its stock value.

Update 2: Today BP dropped their official explanation, which is virtually identical to the previous statement (or I should say, the Coast Guard is parroting the BP line):

There is a long-term treatment plan for Grand Isle which includes the collection and washing of oiled sand including buried oil. Part of this plan includes collecting and storing oiled sand in piles for later cleaning. At no time has clean sand been used to cover or bury oil or oiled sand.

Beaches naturally pass through a series of growth and degradation depending on the sea conditions. Storms that have passed through the area have deposited sand on the beach and eroded it again exposing oil buried by sediments brought in by the weather.

Now that the bad weather has moved through the cleanup area, crews are able to return to the water and beaches and renew the process of removing the oil.

As you might imagine, it’s impossible to secure a BP official right now for an extensive interview about this, but I keep emailing their offices with my questions. The sand in the videos don’t appear to be in piles, but rather matted down. Of course, that could very well be from the ocean washing against the piles, and flattening them, as BP says in this latest release. But in that case, how does BP discern what areas are “clean” and what areas are “contaminated?” There are no visible markers anywhere (at least that are clear in the videos).

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