Oil Spill: Looking Back

By: Troy Kinsey Email
By: Troy Kinsey Email

Pensacola, FL - It has been six months since last spring when oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster made landfall in Florida and oil is still underneath the sand in some panhandle beaches.

Although the oil refuses to leave, the opposite can be said for the tourism industry, which hasn't been able to rebound from its tarred reputation.

The oil is still affecting residents like restaurant manager Bruce Parris.

Parris manages The Dock, a popular bar and grill on Pensacola Beach. He said business took a nosedive during the oil spill and now remains below average.

"We have people that live five miles away in Gulf Breeze, Florida, that haven't brought their children out here all summer long," Parris said. "They didn't want to be exposed to the oil and they weren't sure of the toxic implications or anything like that. They were afraid."

Six months later, Pensacola's signature powder-white sands are still pristine, underneath, however, some oil can still be found.

Between May and August, the peak tourism season, Pensacola's hotels saw bookings decline by up to 30 percent.

Local leaders are worried about tar that may not have been picked up and is now trapped under the sand. They're trying to get to it by using high-tech tractors.

However, some beachgoers, like Kali Flemmer and her daughter Marissa, don't care about all of that. They're back on the sand for the first time in five months.

"I bring my little kids here and they play in the sand," Flemmer said. "I haven't seen the effects on a lot of the other beaches on the other side of the coast, so I'm not worried."

Not to mention, the spill's economic crisis is also far from over.

"We haven't received a check from BP yet," said Parris.

To boost business, panhandle hotels are offering $100 debit cards to tourists who stay at least three nights.

Leaders from across the Gulf came together for the annual Clean Gulf Conference to express their disgust with the way the oil disaster was handled.

They are hoping to get some feedback from Coast Guard officials and Bp.

Bill Nungesser, the President of Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish, said it was nothing more than a dog and pony show and he's livid at the report that the threat of the oil has passed.

"But while I'm here today, BP is trying to not only take the boats off the water, but refusing to pay some of the vendors that have been out there picking up oil," he said.

Nungesser said crews disposed of 8,000 gallons of oil last week from the Gulf near his parish.

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