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Oil Pooling Elbow Deep Under the Sand of Grand Isle

Park ranger took to cleaning hermit crabs with Q-tips out of desperation and has attracted 100 volunteers

By Jacoba Charles

Aug 2, 2010

GRAND ISLE, LA. -- Leanne Sarco knelt on the sand, up to her elbow in oil. The blond park ranger was showing a group of visitors the remnants of the spill still left on the Grand Isle State Park Beach, where she has been running the Hermit Crab Survival Project for the last eight weeks. Amid the scattered tarballs and swathes of darkened sand were fresher, jelly-like globs.

It was at one of these that Sarco stopped and scooped up a handful of oil. And then another, and another. Beneath that single palm-sized glob was a pocket of crude that was several feet deep.

“It just keeps coming – and it’s all along the shore,” Sarco said. “You wouldn’t want your kids to build a sand castle out of this."

No BP cleanup crews have done work on the beach; perhaps because park staff asked that workers follow certain specifications, Sarco said. If the contract crews came in to clean up the bird sanctuary using heavy equipment, they could cause more damage than they remedied, she added.

The beach provides nesting sites to shorebirds including the threatened least tern. Even without cleanup activities much of the fragile habitat has already been trampled, driven over and littered with garbage by the various military, law enforcement and contracted cleanup workers who have been patrolling the island since oil first reached its shores ten weeks ago.

Sarco worried that cleanup crews could make matters worse, and might not even reach the deep pockets of oil. Based on activities on other beaches, the crews would stay for an extended period of time, drive ATVs through the site and use tractors to remove oiled sand.

“They have a very set way of how they do it and its not exactly very environmentally friendly,” Sarco said. “We didn’t want any heavy machinery back here since this is the last wild beach on the island.”

She says it is likely that similar pockets of oil persist on other parts of Grand Isle, and also on the surrounding barrier islands.

Oil Gets Buried

The remaining oil is working its way deeper into the beach as it gets buried under fresh layers of sand. Some of the surface contamination will eventually get turned back into water and harmless gases by oil-digesting microbes that live in the gulf waters.

But as it gets buried out of reach of oxygen, the microbes can no longer reach the oil, which can still be consumed by shellfish, aquatic worms and other small creatures that live in the muck.

In order to prevent that from happening, Augustine is now looking to hire an independent cleanup company that would be willing to follow her specifications in order avoid further damage to the vulnerable ecosystem, Sarco said

Out of Desperation, Hermit Crabs

State Parks employees and volunteers are not allowed to clean the beach up on their own because they lack proper training, Sarco said. They also were not allowed to help the birds or other wildlife that were common when oil first reached the shores of the island. But crustaceans, it turned out, were not off limits.

And so, out of desperation, Sarco began cleaning hermit crabs.

“There were thousands of them at first,” she said. “They would get about three feet from the shoreline and then stopped moving as they crawled out of the oil.”

Now two months later, the crabs are still dying – though in smaller numbers – and Sarco is still saving them. Standing on the wet sand with the hum of boat engines and the call of seabirds in the distance, she explained how her project has grown.

Very interesting article.

Very interesting article. Content has been written in very nice manner. I enjoy reading this kind of stuff. Thanks for sharing good knowledge. This is really impressive. Thanks

thank goodness

Thank goodness for people who volunteer their time and energy to help. Each and every one of us can make a difference if we choose to do so!

CANCER and crude oil

Leanne Sarco: You are giving yourself CANCER!!!!! Crude oil contains BENZENE, THE CANCER CAUSER. Benzene is such a strong cancer causer that benzene was used to give cancer to guinea pigs for cancer research. Crude oil contains benzene. Benzene is an "Aromatic" hydrocarbon. It smells good. Do not burn scented candles. Scented candles put benzene into the air. We need to protest the benzene released into the air by oil refineries. Benzene may be the most important cause of cancer. If you have cancer, search for exposure to benzene in your past.

DO NOT SWIM IN THE GULF! Girls who did now have infections or diseases that were surprises. We don't know anything about the bacteria that have been hiding in that one oil reservoir for millions of years. These are actual cases, not theory. Crude oil is a food source for bacteria that were not noticeable before the oil volcano. As a new food source and type, the crude oil may have caused new strains of bacteria to evolve.

Do not eat Gulf of Mexico seafood ever again. The oil will linger for decades. Who knows when all of the benzene will be gone? This oil volcano may have ended the fishing industry in the Gulf for decades.

Microbe eating bacteria

It is completely untrue that the bacteria cannot live below a few feet. Biologic Oil degradation has been observed thousands of feet deep.


"But as it gets buried out of reach of oxygen" is the operative phrase I think

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