*Update, I'm still waiting for an official answer from BP cleanup representatives, but a commenter below speculates that the truck is a dumpster and not related to sand. If there's any chance that the 65-foot rule could be waived for our media team, it would help get cleanup the information to the very interested public.
On Grand Isle Monday with a NewOrleans.com crew, we were treated to a view of a relatively pristine beach. You can't actually walk on the beach without an escort, and the available escort said she was too busy to walk us to the shore, but we zoomed in on the dump truck above and noticed the well-groomed nature of the surrounding sand. There was barely a tarball to be seen. What a difference a few days and the outer bands of Hurricane Alex make.
The question of whether or not sand is being dumped on the beaches of Grand Isle to cover up the oil rather than clean it is lighting up the internet. It's a question raised in a video by Judson Parker of Save our Shores Florida. Reporter C.S. Muncy was there for still photography and was interviewed by Allison Kilkenny on HuffPost Green. He and Parker made it onto the beach, and this may be the last video of its kind since the Coast Guard has instituted a 65-foot rule between observers and cleanup efforts. It's punishable with a $40,000 fine, and if you know anything about journalists you know that very few of us have $40,000 on hand.
Muncy's video shows a different, almost asphalt-like texture to what looks like tar a few layers down. He notes that it is possible the sand is being dumped to fortify the beach, but it's also possible that there is a reason for the new 65-foot rule. Muncy told Kilkenny that a Jefferson Parish deputy who arrived at the scene to usher him off the beach confirmed that sand had been dumped. We didn't see dumping that the deputy mentioned, but my husband's photo above confirms that whatever the case, this dump truck was part of the operation. Watching the video is the best way to decide for yourself.
This was the same week that Vice President Joe Biden, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were touring Grand Isle, and the skies buzzed with Blackhawk Helicopters. They landed in the baseball field, and i assume they were escorted to the beach. Most locals can't get close enough to do anything but speculate. A man at the convenience store wondered aloud why when he saw cleanup workers, "Their boots are always white." The frustration lies in not knowing details of the oil spill cleanup and containment when, 72 days later, it affects the nation so deeply. BP Executive Bob Dudley, interviewed by PBS on YouTube today in a live session, said that 400 journalists are embedded into the cleanup operations. That may be the case. Perhaps I just haven't seen their articles.
Peter Fonda, in New Orleans for the Fuel Film clean energy rally (at right), said he was also turned away from the beach at Grand Isle on Monday:
I have to try to find out what I can about the spill. What are they doing? If they're trying to hide something, why are they trying to hide it? We're watching that terrible thing of the oil gushing out the wellhead. Why can't we see what else is happening? It occurred to me yesterday as I was at Port Fourchon, wait a second we kicked the British out twice. What is this, they're back on our beach and they're telling our Coast Guard what to tell us to do? A foreign flagship is telling our Coast Guard what orders to give our citizens? That ain't right.
It ain't. To be clear, when we were advised to stay off the beach, deputies and rangers guarding the Zone of Safety, Area of Containment and Vessels of Opportunity were perfectly nice about it. And they are just doing their jobs. But how long are we as a nation going to collectively agree that this is an acceptable job assignment?