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BP cleanup crews return to the islands

GULFPORT — BP cleanup crews returned to East Ship Island today, the first since March 1, when the Gulf Islands National Seashore stopped cleanup to protect shore birds during the spring and summer nesting season.

Spokesman Ray Melick said three beach-cleaning teams of eight are picking up tar balls on the surface of the sand. They aren’t allowed to go below the surface on the protected, National Park Service islands.

Melick said they are awaiting federal recommendations on how to best protect the shorelines of Horn and Petit Bois islands before they send crews there, probably next week. Those two are federally designated wilderness islands and receive special protection to protect them.

Melick said BP had a plan in place for cleaning the islands before Tropical Storm Lee hit. The storm caused changes, he said. They will likely use the same three crews to clean the other islands.

The total amount of tar hauled off the islands to inland landfills for disposal as of Sept. 15, is 3.5 million pounds.