Retired Boat Captain Remembers 2005 Oil Spill Renee Montagne talks to cattle raiser and retired boat captain Phillip Simmons, whose business will be at risk if the leaking oil off the Gulf Coast comes ashore in Plaquemines Parish, La. Simmons spoke with NPR in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina caused a rupture in a local pipeline, spilling more than 100,000 gallons of oil into a marsh in his community.
NPR logo

Retired Boat Captain Remembers 2005 Oil Spill

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/126522928/126522899" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Retired Boat Captain Remembers 2005 Oil Spill

Retired Boat Captain Remembers 2005 Oil Spill

Retired Boat Captain Remembers 2005 Oil Spill

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/126522928/126522899" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Renee Montagne talks to cattle raiser and retired boat captain Phillip Simmons, whose business will be at risk if the leaking oil off the Gulf Coast comes ashore in Plaquemines Parish, La. Simmons spoke with NPR in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina caused a rupture in a local pipeline, spilling more than 100,000 gallons of oil into a marsh in his community.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Good morning.

PHILLIP SIMMONS: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: You know, we last spoke to you here at NPR just after Hurricane Katrina. Our reporter John Burnett encountered you driving along the main road. And we actually - play a little clip about what you told him about the conditions at the time, back in 2005.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIMMONS: Well, it's got oil, but I mean it's a natural disaster, you know? I mean, it's total destruction. I mean, everything. It's not just the oil. You know, nobody has a home from West Point àla Hache south.

MONTAGNE: And West Point àla Hache is a town in Plaquemines Parish. Do you remember that moment? And was it, in fact, anything like you're possibly going to see now?

SIMMONS: And a lot of people, that's their livelihood here. And we don't know what the end results are going to be yet. And they're getting some of the fishermen to try to help contain it, so it don't get all over everywhere in these sanctuaries and stuff.

MONTAGNE: You know, I do know there's a lot of wildlife down there. You just mentioned a few things.

SIMMONS: Yeah. They got a staging area where they're cleaning the birds.

MONTAGNE: Already?

SIMMONS: Yeah. I know there's some pelicans that's got oil on them and a few other birds. But it's a mess. That's for sure.

MONTAGNE: How many people have even come back there and started rebuilding in this last five years?

SIMMONS: I would say less than 50 percent come back and there's very few building other than trailers and stuff they brought in, you know. Just mobile homes mostly.

MONTAGNE: So at the moment, though, what? You're just kind of waiting and hoping that you won't be hit by the worst?

SIMMONS: Right. We've got our fingers and toes and legs crossed.

MONTAGNE: And what is the sense there of what is going to happen?

SIMMONS: Oh, people's worried because these fishermen can't get out and work and they've got, you know, boat notes from the hurricane. They had to redo their homes. They've got home notes. They're not going to be able to pay their bills, so they're going to be in trouble.

MONTAGNE: Talk about boats - are any of the folks you know becoming part of this sort of instant cleanup crew that's being assembled?

SIMMONS: Yes, they are. I saw quite a few boats going out yesterday. I think they put like 500 on or something like that. But the weather had been so bad lately, they couldn't get really out along the beach to work, because it's too rough. But if it stays kind of calm, well, they might be able to clean a lot of it up before it does too much damage, you know?

MONTAGNE: I'm wondering if it would have any affect on your cattle.

SIMMONS: Yeah, if it comes into the marshes. A lot of our cattle feed on the marsh grass and it would kill all the grass. And then we would have to get rid of the cattle or get them somewhere(ph) where they can get feed. And the only way I could do that is by boat, you know. There's no roads out there. And I'd have to lower them on barges and bring them in and then load them on trailers and ship them out.

MONTAGNE: Right. And that's going to be quite a trek to them out, right?

SIMMONS: Oh, that's a - yeah, we're looking at weeks to get them all out of there.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you.

SIMMONS: Oh, it's a pleasure talking to y'all.

MONTAGNE: Phillip Simmons lives in Empire, Louisiana. That's in Plaquemines Parish. Waiting to see what will happen with the Gulf oil spill.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.