Cleaning Up Oil Spill Will Take Years

The cleanup of the oil spill in the Gulf will take a long time. Guy Raz speaks with Marc Jones, who is helping Louisiana fishermen organize cleanup efforts. Jones helped manage the government's cleanup during the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Now, cleaning up that spill will take months, if not years. Marc Jones(ph) is in Louisiana. He's helping local fishermen organize cleanup efforts. He also helped manage the government's cleanup equipment during the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.

Marc Jones, welcome.

Mr. MARC JONES: Thank you. Glad to be here.

RAZ: I understand the weather is pretty choppy out there today, which is not good for cleanup. What do you expect to happen over the next few days?

Mr. JONES: Well, obviously, since the well continues to leak, you know, the spill will continue to increase in size and so you're going to see more shoreline get oiled. And the weather conditions right now are such that it's ideal for exactly what you don't want to have to happen to happen.

RAZ: But once the conditions do improve, hopefully soon, what specifically could local fishermen - I understand that they are actually training with British Petroleum, the company that owns the oil rig to help in the cleanup. What kind of things can they actually do?

Mr. JONES: Well, you have to understand, once you get into that shallow water environment that's around the (unintelligible) is, nobody understands current patterns and wind patterns and where things are going to go and where they're concentrated and all that like a local fisherman. Your satellite image doesn't do a lot for you at that juncture. And so they're the right people with the right equipment.

RAZ: What can fishermen actually do to help with the cleanup efforts?

Mr. JONES: In the Valdez effort, we used literally hundreds of fishing vessels to do all sorts of things. They can ferry people around, they can carry groceries and drop them off to the people that need it. And where I use them is the (unintelligible) scanning systems require two boats to tow them along. And what we did is we used one Navy workboat and one fishing boat. Well, it didn't take us long to learn that the guys driving those fishing boats knew exactly where the oil was going that we wanted to recover.

RAZ: You worked on the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. Are you at all concerned that this could be worse?

Mr. JONES: It could be worse. It could be a lot worse. As hard as the shoreline conditions were to work with in Prince William Sound that was made up primarily of large cobbles, you know, big round stones. As bad as that was, and it was bad. I mean, the ideal beach that you want to deal with in terms of an oil spill is one nice, white, flat, sandy beach, because then you just get a bulldozer and it's a pretty simple system.

But there are very limited issues that you can use to do cleanup of marshlands because, you know, (unintelligible) send people in there with rags or whatever, you end up doing more damage than if you can do anything at all.

Additionally, you know, the concentration of the seafood industry in the Gulf Coast is as big as the seafood industry is in Prince William Sound, and it's huge. All of you folks who eat Copper River salmon and all that depend on Prince William Sound.

Well, a third of what American eats comes out of the Gulf Coast, down in Louisiana. And so, that's important too. Right now, things are okay. But as long as the well continues to spill and weather conditions being what they are, that could change quickly.

RAZ: Marc Jones helped managed the government's cleanup equipment for the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989. He's now in Louisiana helping cleanup efforts there.

Marc Jones, thank you so much.

Mr. JONES: Thank you very much.

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