Day 42 – Coden, AL

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I’m enjoying a fit of good weather with yesterday’s paddle down the Fowl River to the Mississippi Bay. As I write this, tho, it is overcast and raining. According to the weather for Pascagoula it’s supposed to be sunny!  Oh well, sometimes I’ll take the rain over the harsh sun and of course I’m always happy if it’s just rain and not thunderstorms.

Lee, a boat builder and ace sailor I had met at the yacht  club, came out on the water to row with me a piece. I thoroughly enjoyed his company as he skimmed along in the  rowboat he made to keep himself in shape. At 73 he definitely could do circles around guys half his age! We chatted and paddled/rowed for a bit before he broke off and went back, leaving me once again on my twisting way, this time following sticks as markers out to the bay rather than USCG channel markers.

Seven years post-BP oil spill and folks down here still fight the the battle for justice. Lori Bosarge, a local activist who’s been working on fighting for the folks who STILL suffer from the fallout of the BP disaster, has been filling me in on how folks have been impacted. It seems the oil spill was the least of it.  The Corexit, the dispersant that was used, has cause real physical damage to people.

That the dispersant was used at all is a tragedy, that BP continued to use it even after the EPA told them to stop is criminal. I’m going to have Lisa do a blog because there are so many moving parts to this that I don’t want to misrepresent info.

But for now I’ll go with what I got and what I understand. I did, happily, get a chance to talk to Steve Johnson, the wonderfully kind man who put down his work to help me in ’09 after his cousin, Victor Zirlott, plucked me out of the Mississippi Sound with a snapped rudder cable.

After BP, I was sad to discover, Steve lost everything-his shrimping and crabbing business, his boat repair and making business. He, along with Lisa Bosarge and others, were actually DIRECTLY sprayed on by planes applying the dispersant to the Mississippi Bay AFTER EPA told them to stop. There was no warning, no prior public notification alerting residents to not go by the water, before they did this. Hell! We even get alerts (well, I do remember one occasion we in Medford Lakes DID NOT) when they spray for gypsy moths and bT isn’t nearly as bad as COREXIT! These folks were sprayed-and harmed as a result.

Lori has a ton of information she’s been collecting from local residents and their health issues many blame the Corexit for. The swelling and discoloration of her leg, and another guy’s leg, really make one wonder. The doctor’s reports they have and their experiences seem to beg a major investigation with folks doing jail time at the end.

The folks here have horror stories-like damages done to themselves and their docks but because they happened “on the other side of the Coden bridge” BP excludes them from compensation. One guy I met even told me that he was contracted to clean the 200 boats a day that wrecked his docks and boat ramp, and he was never told the boats he was cleaning were covered in Corexit-never given proper protective gear or anything, and never compensated for the damage to his ramp and docks nor for his health which was impacted by the dispersant.

On top of insult to injury, the locals told me of callous workers hired to take in complaints and work the piles of paperwork that would enable them to submit claims to BP. Of course BP brought down folks from the north who often times treated the locals disrespectfully and with no kindness. These are folks who suffered injury enough already, who were bewildered and severely impacted, and having no where else to turn to but surly strangers who did not seem the least bit interested that their lives had been ruined.

I cannot imagine, losing everything because of an oil spill, incurring health issues because of the criminal application of a dispersant, and then having to deal with mean out of town folks who don’t give a damn about the people or their lives or the area, never mind the long term suffering ahead. Talk about insult added to injury!

I’m sure I’ll be collecting more of these horror stories, even as I re-discover the beauty  of this place, as I paddle today. Tracy Lannie, my host, is busy making breakfast while I gather my gear. Her husband, David, and another friend who I met last night at dinner, Penny, will join me on the water. Lori Borage and her husband, Dennis, will join us as we get my boat from the wonderful folks who do Mercedes repair and rebuilding by the river. Tina and Matt work exclusively on Mercedes and have hearts of gold. They can also tell BP related horror stories, as many can in this area. I was concerned with them helping me take the gear off my boat because of the crooked beaten up dock-which is their dock-was a tad treacherous. Apparently that damage was from the 200 boats a day going in and out of their boat ramp that BP contracted with – and for which they were never compensated for. Despite it all they remain upbeat and happy and always ready to help out folks in need. Truly there are good people here in Alabama!

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