In Louisiana, BP Tries To Quell Fears Over Spill

BP engineers are trying several options to stop the oil still gushing from the ruptured well in the Gulf. As the spill moves closer to the port towns, people in south Louisiana are on edge.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

NPR's Kathy Lohr has been reporting from South Louisiana all week. Today, she attended a meeting where she found local residents on edge.

KATHY LOHR: BP and federal officials met with people in Plaquemines Parish today at a Baptist church. Fisherman A.C. Cooper says he heard oil dispersants used in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill ruined the fishing in that state. So Cooper wants officials here to stop spraying.

Mr. A.C. COOPER (Vice President, Louisiana Shrimp Association): We, you know, are totally against the dispersant. What is going to happen to our fishing in the gulf? (Unintelligible) can barely have (unintelligible) again? You know, that's a big issue with us right now.

LOHR: But U.S. Coast Guard Captain Ed Stanton says there's no perfect option.

Captain ED STANTON (U.S. Coast Guard): It's name your poison. Look, we're all guilty in this rummage. If you drive a car, you own part of this spill. I understand the point view of the fishermen, but would you rather have the oil come ashore?

LOHR: Stanton told the crowd, he wants what's best for this area, saying he was raised in Louisiana, as was BP's community liaison Darryl Willis.

Mr. DARRYL WILLIS (Community Liaison, British Petroleum): My role in this response for BP is to make sure we do what we're supposed to do when it comes to the communities that we're hurting because of the fact that this well is still flowing.

LOHR: That didn't calm the fears of many here who depend on fishing for food, income and recreation. Kendra Arneson(ph) told the group she's worried about the long-term health effects of living with the oil.

Ms. KENDRA ARNESON: I look at my five- and my eight-year-old, and I think in 10 years, am I going to have to look at Elena(ph) and say to her the reason you're in this hospital bed is because I kept you there. That's what I'm here to ask, and I really do appreciate that.

LOHR: An EPA official says they're monitoring air and water quality and haven't found anything harmful yet, but that provided little comfort here.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

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