Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Brings out Hundreds of Volunteers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Brings out Hundreds of Volunteers

Article excerpt

Oil company BP is paying local watermen to ferry trained workers deploying booms to help contain the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Facing a manmade catastrophe that could rival the cost of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of Louisiana residents are asking what they can do help stem an imminent tide of oil washing toward the state's fragile wetlands.

Local radio stations and a state government web site are offering toll-free numbers for potential volunteers to call. At the Audubon Institute's Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program in New Orleans, workers have been fielding dozens of calls from people who want to help save sea creatures.

But the front line of community involvement was at the Boothville- Venice School outside Venice, Louisiana. Over three hundred people packed the school's gymnasium for a public meeting called by Parish President Billy Nungesser. Hundreds of fishermen signed up for a five hour safety class on handling hazardous materials, so they can offer their services deploying oil booms in the Gulf.

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill

"We've been having people who want to help calling my office for days," said Mr. Nungesser. "They want to help and don't even ask about getting paid. They've got their boats, they know the depths of the water. We want to include all the people we can to help."

David Kinnard, a community coordinator in Venice for BP, encouraged fishermen to register with the company's Vessel of Opportunity program, which will pay local watermen to ferry trained workers who are deploying the booms. According to a BP spokesperson, the company has placed 250,000 feet of boom and has another quarter of a million feet awaiting deployments. Two thousand BP employees are working from Venice to contain the spill.

Mr. Kinnard said BP will also use local businesses as their first sources for supplies and services in their containment and cleanup efforts, an effort to help support a local economy that could otherwise be devastate by the spill.

"We're here to help, we're here to do what we can to make it right," said Kinnard. "Our intention is to stage a response using this community and use local resources as much as possible. …

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