Monday, June 14, 2010

Cleanup expert returns from 'vacation' in Gulf

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Ecology’s Andy Kallus just got back from a vacation in Venice.

No, not the famed Italian city — the little town on Louisiana’s far southeast coast, where he worked for nearly three weeks as a contractor on perhaps the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Andy is the Toxics Cleanup Program’s baywide coordinator for Puget Sound Initiative work in and around Port Gardner Bay in Everett. He took vacation from Ecology to do some work for Weston Solutions Inc., his former employer. Weston Solutions is contracting with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for cleanup work on the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Andy’s job involved taking water and oil samples at various locations off Louisiana’s coast. He also conducted reconnaissance for oil-affected areas.

“I was on the boat every day, sampling for petroleum, dispersants and water quality,” Andy said Monday, June 7, his first day back at Ecology.

One day, Win McNamee, chief photographer for Getty Images, tagged along on the boat. He shot images of Andy and others as they went about their daily work. (One of the photos accompanies this post.)

Photos of Andy were displayed nationwide on the ABC News, National Public Radio and MSNBC websites, as well as in the pages of USA Today.

The boat from which Andy did his sampling was owned and piloted by a local fisherman. Venice, La., is a small town of about 500 people that depends on the fishing industry and activities linked to the nearby off-shore oil rigs.

Tiny Venice was full of cleanup contractors, media, federal responders, BP workers, and onlookers. Andy said the disaster’s effects are devastating for the area.

“It’s considered one of the best places in the world to go fishing... They’ve closed it now to fishing. It’s affecting everyone’s livelihoods down there,” Andy observed. “The local people are especially devastated by this since the majority of them had to completely rebuild after hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.”

“You take something away from it — being around it, seeing the people. And it’s just beginning.”

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