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Calmer Waves Stir Optimism In Gulf
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Calmer Waves Stir Optimism In Gulf

Environment

Calmer Waves Stir Optimism In Gulf

Calmer Waves Stir Optimism In Gulf
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In the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, oil continues to pour from a well a mile under water. Calmer weather has officials optimistic they may be gaining ground in dispersing the crude before it reaches the shore. Crews plan to drop dispersants from a plane to break up oil on the water. They're also using an underwater vehicle to pump chemicals into the oil plume, breaking it up before it rises. Along the Gulf shore, volunteers are being trained to clean animals tainted with oil if and when they start arriving. In Biloxi, Miss., residents are waiting for whatever is coming next.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

In the Gulf of Mexico today, oil continues to pour from a well that sits one mile underwater. The head of BP says a huge, specially built dome designed to cover the blowout could be in place by early next week. Meanwhile, calmer winds appear to have helped crews trying to disperse oil that has already spilled into the gulf waters. In a moment, we'll hear more about the chemical dispersants being used.

But, first, we go ashore, where residents along the Gulf Coast wait anxiously for the slick to make landfall. NPR's Jeff Brady reports from Biloxi, Mississippi.

JEFF BRADY: Biloxi's light, sandy beaches have yet to be touched with oil, but all along the gulf, officials are making preparations. In Pensacola, Florida, today, state Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole was among those who briefed local officials preparing for the oil to hit land.

Secretary MICHAEL SOLE (Environmental Protection Department): BP has actually provided a block grant to the state, to the tune of $25 million. It is our intent to go ahead and work with you to identify those local action plans, and see if we can get you that money so you can get those implemented.

BRADY: Local officials will use the money to hire emergency workers and equipment. Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were given similar grants.

In Ocean Springs, Mississippi, John Steadly(ph) finds waiting for the oil to reach shore almost unbearable. He owns a fishing charter business and usually this time of year, he's transporting small groups of customers 35 miles out to his camp, on the Chandeleur Islands. He has three houseboats moored together there. One of them has Styrofoam-type material underneath. Steadly worries that if oil comes into contact with it, it'll melt like wax in a flame.

Mr. JOHN STEADLY (Business owner): It's got a lot of growth, like barnacles and stuff, on it, and I'm hoping that'll protect it somewhat. But if it gets to the bare foam, I'm sure it will probably attack it and destroy the foam.

BRADY: And then it would sink?

Mr. STEADLY: Yeah. It's only in three or four feet of water, so I mean, it's only going to sink that far, probably, before it hits. But it would absolutely ruin my camp.

BRADY: For now, all Steadly can do is monitor the location of the oil slick through news reports. He keeps a close eye on the weather, too.

Mr. STEADLY: The only thing that's kept it off now is, the wind has been going out of the north and northwest, and that's holding it offshore. But as soon as it goes back around to the south, it's going to blow it right up in the gulf, you know, against our coast right here, I'm sure.

BRADY: If BP can't stop oil from flowing into the water soon, says Steadly, he could lose more than $100,000 of income this year. And he's just one person in this region that depends not only on the oil industry, but fishing and tourism.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Biloxi, Mississippi.

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