Tarball Training, Just In Case

Pine Island Waters, On Monday, I drove the 120 mile round trip to South Seas to take the 40 hour course in oil spill volunteer training, which costs $25.
They taught the following:
    Contrary to repeated newspaper accounts, you don't need this or any other course to pick up tar balls, unless you seek paid employment by BP or their contractors. If you seek paid employment by BP--you have to take a course approved by BP, which is not available in this area.    
   Use nitrile coated gloves to pick up tar balls. They are readily available at Home Depot for less than $1 a pair. Use contractor bags, not kitchen trash bags, to store the tar balls.The Lee County waste-to-energy plant can dispose of the tar balls by burning. According to OSHA, and again contrary to press reports, picking up tar balls in not hazardous.
    What is hazardous is heat exhaustion, heat stroke, snake bites, cuts, insect bites, etc, etc. Don't get those, but if you do call 911. (I think their lawyer wrote that section of the course.)
    You will get tar balls on your shoes, and possibly clothes and skin. Scrape it off and use detergent (not gasoline) to clean up.
    They also showed a nice documentary about booms and skimmers, etc., but you have to take a 3 day course (designed for fire departments, etc.) to be authorized to use them. There is also a 40 hour course in St Petersburg about how to cleanse wildlife.
    I don’t think most concerned people will learn anything they didn’t already know.  I don't recommend that Pine Islanders waste 4 hours and $25 on the course, and I'm going to cancel plans to arrange the course on Pine Island.
    I recommend instead that we arrange another meeting on Pine Island to address our response to the disaster. We should invite John Wilson, Lee County Director of Public Safety, and someone from our own fire department to brief us on their respective response plans. Lee County has made extensive arrangements, and our fire department just last week went through the 3 day course.
    The forecasts are that Southwest Florida, barring hurricanes or storms or freak tidal changes, will receive only a sheen and tar balls (some say not even that, but I don't agree). We should set up a registry of Pine Island volunteers to pick up tar balls or otherwise respond to the disaster.  We don't have extensive beaches like Sanibel and Captiva, so our need for volunteers is not as extensive. Removal of tar balls from mangroves is pretty much impossible--Mother Nature and time will have to deal with those, and fortunately they weather quickly. We can discuss that and other related subjects at the meeting.
     Let me know your thoughts, particularly whether another Pine Island meeting should conducted.

Phil Buchanan
Phone/fax: 239-283-4067
email: coolcherokee@comcast.net

(Publishers note:
There's no evidence that any of the oil spill has yet reached our area. So vacationers and visitors still have one of the best places in the world to visit and should continue to make reservations in Matlacha and on Pine Island until further notice.)