Environmental Protection

Oil spill cleanup

Commentary: BP Didn't Raise the Bar

Editor,

I was very surprised to see how this spill was handled and how it still is being handled.

I worked in the command center for the EXXON oil spill. It was my job to standardize the communication system amongst all the oily waste carriers and took it cradle to grave. That was another story. I am very active in safety and am an authorized OSHA trainer for region ten. I spent 12 years in emergency response and hazmat operations in Alaska and know exactly how I would have handled the personal protective equipment from day one at the Gulf spill. I want to remind you at this time that OSHA’s requirements are minimal and that is up to individual companies to raise the bar. I do not think that BP cared enough to raise that bar or to contact Alaska to find out how that bar should be raised. I can assure you that there were deaths in the cleanup efforts of the Exxon and I do believe the bar has been substantially raised since, regardless of OSHA’s minimum requirements.

Long story short, it broke my heart. All Alaskans knew what this spill meant, we watched and some cried.

My first question is why was the governor of Louisiana so uninformed? Gov. Jay Hammond of Alaska was still alive at the time of the Gulf spill. Was he contacted for advice on how to handle the initial response? We here in Alaska initiated many programs involving producers across the state. I was on the A list to assist in setting up these programs known as spill drills. These innovative techniques brought in national attention.

Though contractors from Alaska were summoned, I am surprised at the length of time it took for them to be invited. I myself made several attempts to be a responder. I got the feeling that the priority was to put local folks in the job positions. I am not surprised that these health issues are occurring. Many of us who have credentials and are knowledgeable in health effects during a cleanup effort, including ergonomics, were excluded from the process right from the beginning.

In September I began questioning the Deep Horizon phone groups asking why I was being “lead around”. Finally an answer, “did you look in your junk mail?” I was asked. There it was: one note. I spent many hours and days trying to make contact, all persons telling me they were sending me information immediately. All I ever received was one e-mail that went to junk mail! It makes me wonder if they really know what is in store for their environmental future? Let’s just hope the organics and hydrocarbons that are sitting in a warm environment don’t start producing H2S and hidden deaths begin to occur.

Some came for the money; some wanted to come for the Earth and its peoples.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jocelyn K. Scheffler

SafetyNet Training Solutions

About the Author

Jocelyn K. Scheffler is the owner of SafetyNet Training Solutions.

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