Gulf Residents Skeptical Of Federal Oil Report

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A federal report released Wednesday finds that most of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico poses little additional risk to people and the environment. It's a view not necessarily shared by people living in the affected area.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Along the Gulf Coast today, reaction was mixed to that government report we just heard about and to news that BP's static kill plan is progressing. As Phoebe Judge of Mississippi Public Broadcasting reports, this spill and the failed efforts to stop it have many in the Gulf watching and waiting, but not yet hoping.

PHOEBE JUDGE: By 10 a.m. this morning it was already well past 90 degrees along the coast in Biloxi.

(Soundbite of waves)

JUDGE: Waves crashed ashore, where John Schweitzer(ph) was sitting with his wife enjoying the relatively deserted shoreline.

Mr. JOHN SCHWEITZER: It's nice out here, yeah. It's a little cloudy today, but a little cooler today, which is a good thing.

JUDGE: The Schweitzers were visiting from Houston and they had postcard views. Clean white sand with no oil to be seen. John Schweitzer says he's happy the static kill of the well appears to be working. But it's too soon to celebrate.

Mr. SCHWEITZER: Well, I mean it's slowing down obviously, but to say it's over with, no, I think it's too early for that yet. I mean till they get it capped, till they get the relief well completely sealed, you know, I think it's a little early yet.

JUDGE: Just down the road, 400 people packed into a conference put on by the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to discuss the implications of the BP oil spill. Quenton Dokken is executive director of a Texas-based conservation group called the Gulf of Mexico Foundation. He says it felt like a new day.

Dr. QUENTON DOKKEN (Executive Director, Gulf of Mexico Foundation): This is what we've all been waiting for and watching for and keeping our fingers crossed. And, you know, over the last two weeks as we've moved towards this point, we've all been excited, but cautiously excited about it. And now it seems to be working and this is a big step forward.

JUDGE: Other conference attendees applauded the new government report which found that 75 percent of the released oil has already been dispersed, collected or evaporated. But not everyone was upbeat. John Dindo of the Dolphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama was frustrated.

Dr. JOHN DINDO (Dolphin Island Sea Lab): It has not gone away. I really think people ought to be cautious accepting this. And we don't - as scientists, and I'm a scientist, as scientists, we don't know where that product is. We don't know where the oil is, and they don't know where it's at.

JUDGE: Back on the beach, Lois Risley(ph) from Biloxi watched her two grandchildren splash in the water. She fears the environmental damage has been done.

Ms. LOIS RISLEY: I mean we're ruined for the next - I don't know if this will clear up for the next 10, 15 years. I'm not going to fish out here. I'm not going to eat the fish. It's going to hurt the economy.

JUDGE: So despite a day of good news in a region that's seen few of those in recent months, people here aren't quite ready to move forward.

For NPR News, I'm Phoebe Judge in Gulf Port, Mississippi.

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