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IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf

 
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IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
[link to www.tucsonsentinel.com]

Posted Jun 7, 2010, 7:25 pm

Marian Wang
ProPublica


At the time, it was the worst oil spill the United States had ever seen.

It was 1989, and Merle Savage, then a healthy 50-year-old, had heard the news about Exxon Valdez. Compelled to help, she spent four months cleaning up Alaska’s oil-contaminated waters and shores.

She has never been the same since. Now 71, Savage still feels the toll that summer took on her health, but as she watches the reports coming out of the Gulf, she’s felt something else:

Déjà vu.

After all, the symptoms seem to line up:

A flu-like illness. Dizziness. Nausea. Nosebleeds. Vomiting. Headaches. Coughing. Difficulty breathing. Many of the same things she experienced two decades ago; some of the same things she still experiences today.

“I had an upset stomach all the time. I was throwing up, fainting, I was having trouble with my lungs,” Savage said. It’s been 21 years. She said her health has improved over the past two decades, but still, “everything is not back to normal. It’s still difficult to breathe.”

“No. There’s none,” Savage said. “Let’s face it, crude oil is toxic. There’s no question about it. Anybody who says it isn’t has to have some type of interest otherwise. The fact that you’re out there in it, and the heat and humidity and fumes, you breathe it and it’s going into your lungs. I can’t imagine anybody thinking different.”

But there are people who suggest otherwise. The Coast Guard has suggested that heat, fatigue, or the smell of petroleum is causing the symptoms. BP CEO Tony Hayward suggested over the weekend that the symptoms could be caused by food poisoning, which he said was “a really big issue when you’ve got a concentration of this many people.”

The comment has prompted public ridicule. But the suggestion that the illness is attributable in some way to crowded quarters is one that dates to the Exxon Valdez, when workers came down with what was then described as “a flu-like upper respiratory illness.”

Here’s an excerpt, from a 1999 article in the Anchorage Daily News:

Exxon and its main cleanup contractor, Anchorage-based Veco, acknowledged that summer that many workers got sick. But Exxon said then, and in the prepared statement now, that the illnesses were “a flu-like upper respiratory illness” that spread because of crowded living conditions on the barges where workers bunked. The illness became known as the “Valdez Crud” and Exxon said it spread even to lawyers and claims adjusters who had little direct exposure to the cleanup and its materials.

Exxon never revealed, and government officials never discovered, precisely how widespread the problem was. But years later, Exxon’s internal medical reports showed up in court records. They revealed that an unspecified number of the 11,000 workers made 5,600 clinic visits for upper respiratory illnesses that summer. The source of the illness was never identified.

Then, like now, workers were assured by the oil company and the government that tests had been performed to check for harmful chemicals, and that the levels found were permissible by federal standards and were no cause for concern. (On its website, the EPA says it is “concerned about the potential for long-term health problems related to the spill,” and that it continues to monitor the air for toxic compounds.)

Then, like now, volatile organic compounds such as benzene (PDF) were among the toxic chemical compounds found in air samples, but levels were low, and such chemicals are generally believed to evaporate quickly.

And then, like now, there were questions of whether appropriate safety equipment was provided. Savage says she was not given a respirator, but was given a paper mask that “didn’t last long” once wet. Other Valdez cleanup workers, like Jacqueline Payne and her son Jacob, told The Boston Globe in 1992 that they had neither .

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that BP said it is providing protective equipment to workers who need it, but BP spokesman Graham MacEwen told Yahoo! News that “we haven’t provided respirators or masks because all the environmental data shows the air is safe.”

BP spokesman Mark Proegler told me this morning that because air sampling results had been within permissible exposure limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “with respect to respirators, since they’re not required, we’re not providing them unless there are indications about volatile organic compounds in the area, which there haven’t been.”

“If volunteers have concerns, we deploy them to a different area,” Proegler said.

But the fact is, in spite of the air sampling data, cleanup workers in the Gulf are getting sick, as did their Valdez counterparts decades before. Numbers are sketchy, but a U.S. News & World Report piece published yesterday noted that reports of illness are on the rise.

We’ve reached out to the EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, OSHA and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to obtain better figures on worker health complaints and hospitalizations related to the Gulf oil spill. We have yet to hear back.

I asked BP if it’s enough to say that data show conditions are safe for workers, given that they’re still coming down sick. I also pointed out that workers from Valdez who have been sick for two decades were told the same thing—that testing showed the levels of chemical exposures were safe. Proegler’s answer:

“Obviously it’s in our best interest to make sure everyone is safe, and every organization is here to test it and make sure it is.”

But despite such assurances, some are certain that crucial lessons from Exxon Valdez are going ignored.

“They’re not listening with what happened with Exxon,” said Savage. The workers “have to watch out for themselves. They cannot depend on BP and they cannot depend on the government.”

Savage has written a book, Silence in the Sound, about her experience as a female general foreman cleaning up a historic oil spill. I asked if she regretted the experience. She answered right away.

“Oh my goodness, yes, honey. Yes. A thousand times over,” she told me.

And then, as she had so many times, she stopped to cough and clear her throat.
Anonymous Coward
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06/07/2010 11:23 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
Corexit was used in the Valdez as well... all the more amazing it would be allowed in the Gulf!!!
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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06/07/2010 11:24 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
Im gonna bump my own thread.

This is important as this spill is in a high density population center(s)
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 11:13 AM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
Benzene is a real problem here. If you can smell it, there is enough to damage you. EPA limit is 1 ppm in a work day. If you can smell the "oil" you need a respirator. It sucks that the people running this show are such greedy bastards that they will ignore the health of workers.
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 11:15 AM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
You won't see it immediately, but benzene = leukemia. Expect to see people dying in droves in 5-10 years. This is all part of the depopulation plan.
omnipadme007

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06/08/2010 11:19 AM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
wasn't it 1979???
Angela

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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
So all you who are thinking whether to stay in your place or move away.....please take note of the above story. This should be you cue. Your health is more important than your home & possessions. Do not become one of the culled, do not let them do this to you. Move away, while you still have time.

Last Edited by *** A/C*** on 06/08/2010 11:20 AM
Lil Miss Trouble

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06/08/2010 11:22 AM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
bump
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Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 11:28 AM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
wasn't it 1979???
 Quoting: omnipadme007


No, it was on 24th of march 1989.
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 11:32 AM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf

Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 11:50 AM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
[link to www.tucsonsentinel.com]

Posted Jun 7, 2010, 7:25 pm

Marian Wang
ProPublica


At the time, it was the worst oil spill the United States had ever seen.

It was 1989, and Merle Savage, then a healthy 50-year-old, had heard the news about Exxon Valdez. Compelled to help, she spent four months cleaning up Alaska’s oil-contaminated waters and shores.

She has never been the same since. Now 71, Savage still feels the toll that summer took on her health, but as she watches the reports coming out of the Gulf, she’s felt something else:

Déjà vu.

After all, the symptoms seem to line up:

A flu-like illness. Dizziness. Nausea. Nosebleeds. Vomiting. Headaches. Coughing. Difficulty breathing. Many of the same things she experienced two decades ago; some of the same things she still experiences today.

“I had an upset stomach all the time. I was throwing up, fainting, I was having trouble with my lungs,” Savage said. It’s been 21 years. She said her health has improved over the past two decades, but still, “everything is not back to normal. It’s still difficult to breathe.”

“No. There’s none,” Savage said. “Let’s face it, crude oil is toxic. There’s no question about it. Anybody who says it isn’t has to have some type of interest otherwise. The fact that you’re out there in it, and the heat and humidity and fumes, you breathe it and it’s going into your lungs. I can’t imagine anybody thinking different.”

But there are people who suggest otherwise. The Coast Guard has suggested that heat, fatigue, or the smell of petroleum is causing the symptoms. BP CEO Tony Hayward suggested over the weekend that the symptoms could be caused by food poisoning, which he said was “a really big issue when you’ve got a concentration of this many people.”

The comment has prompted public ridicule. But the suggestion that the illness is attributable in some way to crowded quarters is one that dates to the Exxon Valdez, when workers came down with what was then described as “a flu-like upper respiratory illness.”

Here’s an excerpt, from a 1999 article in the Anchorage Daily News:

Exxon and its main cleanup contractor, Anchorage-based Veco, acknowledged that summer that many workers got sick. But Exxon said then, and in the prepared statement now, that the illnesses were “a flu-like upper respiratory illness” that spread because of crowded living conditions on the barges where workers bunked. The illness became known as the “Valdez Crud” and Exxon said it spread even to lawyers and claims adjusters who had little direct exposure to the cleanup and its materials.

Exxon never revealed, and government officials never discovered, precisely how widespread the problem was. But years later, Exxon’s internal medical reports showed up in court records. They revealed that an unspecified number of the 11,000 workers made 5,600 clinic visits for upper respiratory illnesses that summer. The source of the illness was never identified.

Then, like now, workers were assured by the oil company and the government that tests had been performed to check for harmful chemicals, and that the levels found were permissible by federal standards and were no cause for concern. (On its website, the EPA says it is “concerned about the potential for long-term health problems related to the spill,” and that it continues to monitor the air for toxic compounds.)

Then, like now, volatile organic compounds such as benzene (PDF) were among the toxic chemical compounds found in air samples, but levels were low, and such chemicals are generally believed to evaporate quickly.

And then, like now, there were questions of whether appropriate safety equipment was provided. Savage says she was not given a respirator, but was given a paper mask that “didn’t last long” once wet. Other Valdez cleanup workers, like Jacqueline Payne and her son Jacob, told The Boston Globe in 1992 that they had neither .

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that BP said it is providing protective equipment to workers who need it, but BP spokesman Graham MacEwen told Yahoo! News that “we haven’t provided respirators or masks because all the environmental data shows the air is safe.”

BP spokesman Mark Proegler told me this morning that because air sampling results had been within permissible exposure limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “with respect to respirators, since they’re not required, we’re not providing them unless there are indications about volatile organic compounds in the area, which there haven’t been.”

“If volunteers have concerns, we deploy them to a different area,” Proegler said.

But the fact is, in spite of the air sampling data, cleanup workers in the Gulf are getting sick, as did their Valdez counterparts decades before. Numbers are sketchy, but a U.S. News & World Report piece published yesterday noted that reports of illness are on the rise.

We’ve reached out to the EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, OSHA and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to obtain better figures on worker health complaints and hospitalizations related to the Gulf oil spill. We have yet to hear back.

I asked BP if it’s enough to say that data show conditions are safe for workers, given that they’re still coming down sick. I also pointed out that workers from Valdez who have been sick for two decades were told the same thing—that testing showed the levels of chemical exposures were safe. Proegler’s answer:

“Obviously it’s in our best interest to make sure everyone is safe, and every organization is here to test it and make sure it is.”

But despite such assurances, some are certain that crucial lessons from Exxon Valdez are going ignored.

“They’re not listening with what happened with Exxon,” said Savage. The workers “have to watch out for themselves. They cannot depend on BP and they cannot depend on the government.”

Savage has written a book, Silence in the Sound, about her experience as a female general foreman cleaning up a historic oil spill. I asked if she regretted the experience. She answered right away.

“Oh my goodness, yes, honey. Yes. A thousand times over,” she told me.

And then, as she had so many times, she stopped to cough and clear her throat.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 978506


I recently watched a documentary on Planet Green about the Valdez cleanup workers. They all either died within a few years of the cleanup or they became severely ill for years with respiratory, neurological and other symptoms.
Hatfield

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06/08/2010 11:59 AM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
This is the exact reason I'm writing up a grant proposal to obtain funding for air monitoring equipment so I can perform independent air analysis along with my University. However, I seriously have my doubts it will be approved as my proposal is in direct conflict with the EPA.

I am trying to word the proposal so it doesn't come off this way. Currently, the EPA is testing for VOC's, but they are doing so by classifying all the toxic compounds into this one category. What I'm attempting to do is measure the more harmful toxic compounds on an individual basis. Easier said than done, especially when the equipment costs upwards of $5,000 - $7,000 a pop. If I can obtain the funding, I can network these stations along the coast and work in conjunction with other Coastal universities in hopes of creating a method of conveyance using GIS software and providing real time updates to 1st responders and those of us along the Gulf Coast.

To anyone reading this thread, please know that there are many of us down here that know and understand the dangers of what we are dealing with. It's unfortunate that we are having to take baby steps in order to accomplish the most simplest of tasks, but we realize it has to be done. If we sit around and wait for bp, the federal and state governments, we won't get anything accomplished, except become even more enraged than we are now.
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 12:02 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
You won't see it immediately, but benzene = leukemia. Expect to see people dying in droves in 5-10 years. This is all part of the depopulation plan.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 996697

LOL, yeah.........of course it is ;-)
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 12:10 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
the cheapest way to verify the presence of benzine seems to be these single use sample tubes:
[link to store.pksafety.net]
You can also get them for combined hydrocarbons
[link to store.pksafety.net]

You use a hand held pump to pull the air through the tubes and look for a color change.
[link to store.pksafety.net]

(I have no connection the this vendor or manufacture)
ExhaleAeonVolts

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06/08/2010 12:11 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf


 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 996752


Are those parents F-ing crazy? Don't they want grandchildren? WTF...
NO, SERIOUSLY....
cookiewtf
He who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past. -1984
Hitndahedfred

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06/08/2010 12:22 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
I put up the MSDS for Corexit in this thread

Thread: MSDS for COREXIT,,,, what they are putting on the oil in the gulf

Or just go directly to it here

[link to lmrk.org]

This is NOT a nice compound to be in contact with.

hiding

Last Edited by Hitndahedfred on 06/08/2010 12:29 PM
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Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 12:26 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
I recently watched a documentary on Planet Green about the Valdez cleanup workers. They all either died within a few years of the cleanup or they became severely ill for years with respiratory, neurological and other symptoms.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 996726



Can you direct me on where to find this documentary? Thanks in advance AC 996726 !
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 12:41 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
I recently watched a documentary on Planet Green about the Valdez cleanup workers. They all either died within a few years of the cleanup or they became severely ill for years with respiratory, neurological and other symptoms.



Can you direct me on where to find this documentary? Thanks in advance AC 996726 !
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 825463


It was carried on the Planet Green channel on Directv about 2 months ago. I don't remember the name of it but the major topic of the program was how now 20+ years later the oil is still affecting Alaska. They had interviews with the Valdez cleanup workers (the few who are still alive).

I'm sure they have a website with a programming schedule, try a google search on planet green.
suvalley

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06/08/2010 12:54 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
Here are a few links about the lingering effects of the Exxon Valdez spill......

[link to www.time.com]

And more:

[link to thepumphandle.wordpress.com]


There are a great many reports available online, all it takes is a little Bing & Google.

My SO also headed up clean up crews. He did not become ill and neither did anyone on his many crews (several hundred workers), aside from normal illnesses that crowded living and working conditions can escalate. That said, there are people who were sick, and remained sick for years.

And, most of the folks who worked on that spill ARE alive. Honest ;)
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 01:16 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
So all you who are thinking whether to stay in your place or move away.....please take note of the above story. This should be you cue. Your health is more important than your home & possessions. Do not become one of the culled, do not let them do this to you. Move away, while you still have time.
 Quoting: Angela

ahhh
Hatfield

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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
Suvalley, many thanks to you for posting the Exxon Valdez public health assessment. It will no doubt provide some vital information in the research I'm doing now for my grant proposal. I'm at the beginning phases of this and am trying to collect every piece of information associated with the air quality and potential health complications. I'm also working upwards of 40+ hours a week at my job in addition to taking grad classes. As much as I would love to jump into this feet first, full speed ahead, I'm afraid I don't have that luxury.

Here are a few links about the lingering effects of the Exxon Valdez spill......

[link to www.time.com]

And more:

[link to thepumphandle.wordpress.com]


There are a great many reports available online, all it takes is a little Bing & Google.

My SO also headed up clean up crews. He did not become ill and neither did anyone on his many crews (several hundred workers), aside from normal illnesses that crowded living and working conditions can escalate. That said, there are people who were sick, and remained sick for years.

And, most of the folks who worked on that spill ARE alive. Honest ;)
 Quoting: suvalley
mj-13

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06/08/2010 01:26 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
bump
suvalley

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06/08/2010 01:30 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
Hatfield, here is a Google result:


[link to www.google.com]


And many more if you search for health effects and monitoring. You will find a lot of info at Cook Inlet Keepers and other local orgs as well. The State also has some data online, only takes a few minutes to look up ;)
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 01:38 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
Corexit was used in the Valdez as well... all the more amazing it would be allowed in the Gulf!!!
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 847197

redface
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 02:05 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
Corexit was used in the Valdez as well... all the more amazing it would be allowed in the Gulf!!!

redface
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 526155


corexit is a banned substance in the rest of the world due to it's toxicity and hazardous nature. So what happens when this corexit/oil makes it's way to Europe in about six months?
RightNut
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06/08/2010 02:27 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
No shit its toxic.
Baaaaa baaaaa

wake up
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 03:01 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
This is the exact reason I'm writing up a grant proposal to obtain funding for air monitoring equipment so I can perform independent air analysis along with my University. However, I seriously have my doubts it will be approved as my proposal is in direct conflict with the EPA.

I am trying to word the proposal so it doesn't come off this way. Currently, the EPA is testing for VOC's, but they are doing so by classifying all the toxic compounds into this one category. What I'm attempting to do is measure the more harmful toxic compounds on an individual basis. Easier said than done, especially when the equipment costs upwards of $5,000 - $7,000 a pop. If I can obtain the funding, I can network these stations along the coast and work in conjunction with other Coastal universities in hopes of creating a method of conveyance using GIS software and providing real time updates to 1st responders and those of us along the Gulf Coast.

To anyone reading this thread, please know that there are many of us down here that know and understand the dangers of what we are dealing with. It's unfortunate that we are having to take baby steps in order to accomplish the most simplest of tasks, but we realize it has to be done. If we sit around and wait for bp, the federal and state governments, we won't get anything accomplished, except become even more enraged than we are now.
 Quoting: Hatfield


bless you, somebody who cares!
hf
Anonymous Coward
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf


 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 996752



My heart weeps.

We went to Gulf Shores every year while raising
the children. I'm glad we did. Such a beautiful
area...such beautiful people.

I pray for God's intervention in Yeshua's name.

peace
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 03:32 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
I can verify this to some extent. I worked pumping fuel at a truck stop. I always got oil and grease on me because there was just no time inbetween trucks to wash. It soaked in my uniform pants and onto my skin. There was also leaked deisel fuel in the ground from an old ruptured tank and in the hot summer you could smell the fumes coming up from the ground. I did fine for about 10 months , then I started getting sick. A lot of the same symptoms, dizziness, lethargic, headaches, etc. I had no energy to work 48 hours a week so I cut it down to 40, then 32. Finally I quit and was even able to get unemployment checks because they determined I had the right to quit because of health reasons and exposure to toxic petroleum products.
That was just a contained truck stop with refined fuel and oil. I can imagine it wouldn't take long to have health problems with massive amounts of crude, benzene and methane.
Luckily after I quit the health effects were gone in about a month.
goodmockingbird

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06/08/2010 03:40 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf
If reports I have read are correct, BP is hiring local contractors to do the cleanup, rather than putting cleanup workers on their own payroll.

Thus, when workers have health problems, the blame will fall upon their immediate employer (picture the likes of "Jim-Bob and Sons Spiffy Shrimp, LLC", or "Leroy's ExtraLarge Excavator, LLC" for example) -- guys with one or two pieces of equipment, and who used to just employ a handful of regulars -- instead of BP.
I Support Our First Responders
Anonymous Coward
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06/08/2010 04:56 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT - A Must Read: Former Valdez cleanup worker warns of toxic dangers in the Gulf





My heart weeps.

We went to Gulf Shores every year while raising
the children. I'm glad we did. Such a beautiful
area...such beautiful people.

I pray for God's intervention in Yeshua's name.

peace
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 996950


If that's what your praying for, forget it.
God's intervention - fine!
Yeshua's name? - umm..... well.... could be problematic.





GLP