EPA opening public “Decontamination Stations”; 400 people seek medical care after visiting Florida beach

Sunday, June 27, 2010
By Paul Martin

FloridaOilSpillLaw.com
June 27th, 2010

Oil spill: Is Gulf safe for swimming?, Pensacola News Journal, June 26, 2010:

The Escambia County Health Department lifted a health advisory on Pensacola Beach on Friday on the advice of a beach official and against the advice of a federal environmental official. …

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to put decontamination stations along the beach, possibly as early as this weekend. …

Dr. John Lanza, director of Escambia County Health Department, said the reason for leaving the decision up to beachgoers on whether to swim is because the oil situation on the beach is “very dynamic.”

“We have a situation that changes from one hour to the next, from one tide to the next, from wave to wave, from one wind direction to another,” he said. …

[T]he impact advisory would warn beachgoers to avoid touching oily product on the beach and in the water, and it would advise them leaving the beach and seeking medical help if they experience respiratory problems.

So far, 400 people have sought medical care for upper or lower respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, and eye irritation after trips to Escambia County beaches, Lanza said. …

[O]il chips, tar balls and submerged oil slicks and the odor of petroleum still were present.

And people complained about getting a petroleum jelly-like substance on them from sand that was tainted brown.

Swimmers who did venture into the water questioned whether it was really safe to wade, swim and play in the Gulf, especially when they had to walk through a line of tar balls and stay clear of skimmers scooping up oil just 25 and 50 feet from the shore.

“I only went into the water up to my ankles. That’s as far as I wanted to go,” said Joe Chambers, 28, of West Pensacola as he scrubbed off oily residue from himself and his son, Ethan, 4, in the public showers at Casino Beach. “It doesn’t smell like the beach. It smells like a gas station. There are no fish in the water. There’s nothing alive in the water. I don’t know how public officials can just look at the water and make a call to reopen it for swimming.”

Carol Doster of Grand Isle, Miss., said her son Dallas, 12, was frightened by the oil that streaked his legs and arms after a five-minute swim in the Gulf on Friday. “It won’t rub off,” Doster said. …

Lanza said the health department did not test the water or sand samples before lifting the health advisory. He did send out health department employees to look at the water before they covered up the health advisory signs.

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