Attending the Oil Spill 101 meeting the other night was very informative. I thought the professors of Coastal Carolina University gave a great presentation. My concern is, are the local town and county governments coming up with a contingency plan? The professors were almost guaranteeing that we would not see anything like they are experiencing in the Gulf: "Maybe a few tar balls, but nothing more." My feeling is, this is like the wildfire - it was unprecedented, and we didn't have time to prepare. With this potential problem we do. I also think that the ecological outcome is not as severe as the economic outcome. It is imperative that our leaders and our chambers head off any negative coverage from the media. Because we don't know if the relief well is going to work in August, we don't really know the outcome. The governor's office, the legislature and state agencies (Department of Health and Environmental Control, Ocean & Coastal Resource Management) need to take this next 30 days and come up with a strategic plan that the Corps of Army Engineers will approve. If this is currently in the works, they need to let the public know. The word on the street is there is no contingency plan.
One thing that the city staffs should do is set up a 40-hour hazardous materials class so that the public works manpower can help with a cleanup. Should the tar balls hit the beach, we need to have a response team ready to clean immediately, not have to wait a week to get qualified people. Our state government may want to find some private companies and contract them now, so that we aren't scrambling at the last minute.
Let's hope that we don't see anything negative come out this, but we should get prepared. You don't know that a tanker going into Wilmington, N.C., could run aground on Frying Pan Shoals and we have oil on us in 10 days. So even if this oil spill is just a test, we should be prepared for something in the future.
The writer, who lives in Little River, worked for 20 years in the salvage and oil cleanup business on the Grand Strand.