A “significant” amount of emulsified oil has washed ashore in Mississippi for the first time since the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill began 10 weeks ago, state officials said on Sunday.
The governor’s office said tides of the weathered brown-orange mess that has defiled once-pristine Gulf Coast shorelines in three other Gulf states have been found on about 3km of beaches along the southeastern tip of the state and on some of the barrier islands.
“The shoreline had largely escaped the oil, with the exception of some scattered tar balls. This is our first significant intrusion of oil on the shoreline,” Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s press secretary Dan Turner told reporters. “We’ve been spared very much up until this point. We are spared no longer.”
The federal government has included Mississippi for weeks in its running tally of Gulf states that have been oiled by the BP spill, saying in its latest update on Sunday that 72km of Mississippi coast were impacted.
The other three states — Louisiana, Alabama and Florida — combined with Mississippi make a total of 303km of Gulf shoreline sullied by the oil, according to the Unified Command, an organization of US and BP officials coordinating response to the disaster.
State officials said the weathered oil emulsion came ashore at Belle Fontaine Beach and at Lake Mars Landing, between Ocean Springs and Gautier late on Saturday and into Sunday. Tar balls were also found.
Turner expressed frustration at a lack of resources to clean up the mess.
“We are pressing the Unified Command and BP to make more assets available to us,” he said. “What we need are skimmers and the equipment necessary to remove material. We need hardware, we need constant and quality communication between the Coast Guard and National Guard members who are flying out spotting patches of oil.”
Mississippi officials said that the prevailing winds were expected to push more oil and residue toward the state’s shores at least for the next several days.
Governor Barbour said he needed more government help to ward off the oil, adding that that Unified Command had 700 vessels on the water working to locate, skim, steer and collect the oil and its residue.
“We continue to press the federal Unified Command and BP to increase the amount of resources available to attack the oil beginning as far south as possible, through the passes, into the sound and in the mouths of the bays,” he said in a statement. “The amount of resources to attack the oil offshore must be greatly increased.”
Among the four Gulf states, Louisiana has by far been the most severely impacted because of its proximity to the site of the spill unleashed by the April 20 explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig 80km off the state’s shores.