Yesterday, I contacted a friend of mine, C.S. Muncy, who is a photojournalist currently raising all kinds of hell down in southern Louisiana.
C.S.'s original goal was to gain access to some of the areas being guarded by BP contractors and deemed "off limits" to reporters, but yesterday he, along with Save Our Shores's Judson Parker, made an unexpected discovery.
They believe that BP has been dumping sand on the beaches in order to cover up oil. You can view some video Judson shot of the beach over here.
I called C.S. to ask him about the alleged cover-up.
AK: Is it true that BP has been covering some of the oil on the beach with sand?
CM: Yeah. Yeah, this is interesting...We went down onto the beaches, and we started inspecting them. There were tar balls, tar residue, and there was some oil on the beach. Apparently, the day before there was a lot of tar balls, and BP was working in the area pretty heavily, and we started noticing there was a different consistency in the sand.
Closer to shore, there was this grainy, very rough shell-filled sand, and then you could see almost like a border where it just spilled over onto the beach sand, which is a very fine-grained sand. And it looked as if it was dumped. I mean, you could dig a few inches down, and you could see that it was a different type of sand beneath that, you know, without all the shell and grit, and what not. It looked very much like that. Our first assumption was, yeah, that they were dumping sand to cover up the tar balls.
You know, when I first said that...to me, it sounded conspiratorial - more so than I usually think. But then, soon after, we were stopped by some local sheriffs - actually, scratch that, they weren't local sheriff - they were working for the local sheriff, but these guys were bussed in from... (C.S. asks Judson if he remembers where they were bussed in from) ...from Jefferson Parish - from way up north - he was a city guy, and there were two of them that stopped us, and they weren't unpleasant about it - they weren't mean - but we could hear them talking on the radio, and their job was to run us off. So they told us, no more pictures - at least no more pictures of them. In fact, they stopped me from going out onto the beach a little bit further, and taking more pictures. But, you know, we got to talking with the guy, one of them, and he said, 'Yeah, they came here, and just dumped a bunch of sand on the beach.' They were just shoveling it on.
We could see the erosion and where the tar still was, and there was a total separate point from where the sand was dumped on.
Update: Shannyn Moore has more on the cover-up (along with some photos from C.S.) here.
Update 2: If you would like to support C.S.'s work, you can send him cash through PayPal to OilSpillStory@gmail.com - Click the link here.
Update 3 I've been updating my blog with responses from the Coast Guard, and today BP dropped their official explanation, which is virtually identical to the previous statement (or I should say, the Coast Guard is parroting the BP line):
There is a long-term treatment plan for Grand Isle which includes the collection and washing of oiled sand including buried oil. Part of this plan includes collecting and storing oiled sand in piles for later cleaning. At no time has clean sand been used to cover or bury oil or oiled sand.
Beaches naturally pass through a series of growth and degradation depending on the sea conditions. Storms that have passed through the area have deposited sand on the beach and eroded it again exposing oil buried by sediments brought in by the weather.
Now that the bad weather has moved through the cleanup area, crews are able to return to the water and beaches and renew the process of removing the oil.
As you might imagine, it's impossible to secure a BP official right now for an extensive interview about this, but I keep emailing their offices with my questions. The sand in the videos don't appear to be in piles, but rather matted down. Of course, that could very well be from the ocean washing against the piles, and flattening them, as BP says in this latest release. But in that case, how does BP discern what areas are "clean" and what areas are "contaminated?" There are no visible markers anywhere (at least that are clear in the videos).
Journalists have been forced to speculate about this stuff because of BP's 65-feet rule in which a private corporation has banned the press from coastal beaches, and local law enforcement has been behaving as an extension of the company responsible for the worst environmental catastrophe in US history.
The Coast Guard lifted the 65-feet for a special One-Day Only bonanza in which the press were allowed to investigate Grand Isle. Of course, after that very special day, everything went back to business as usual.
Correction: An earlier version of this article linked to saveourshores.org, which is a separate group in California. Judson Parker is a representative from www.sosfla.org.