Northshore Water Monitoring Shows No Sign Of Oil

Sep 8, 2010

Ten teams are working the shorelines from Terrebone Parish to the west, along the coastal bays and up into Lake Pontchartrain. BP is paying environmental consulting firm Entrix to look for underwater oil. Clumps of white material resembling pompoms are suspended in the water. Staff scientist Chelsea Murphy explains the process it calls the "Sentinel" program, while on board a boat following teams motoring between buoys.

"Here is one of out teams that's out here checking sentinels. And they're retrieving right now so they're going to go retrieve to look to see if they've picked up anything. So we're just going to kind of follow them. And then we'll observe them retrieving the snare line and then redeploying it. And this is what they do on a daily basis. Every day they come out, they retrieve the sentinels, check to see if they caught anything, any submerged oil, and then they put them back in place."

The last time a Sentinel team found oil on the material was late last month in Barataria Bay, and the sample showed it was tough enough to stay together through harsh conditions.

"The chemistry came back very heavily weathered. So it had been sitting on the surface getting beaten down by the sun and the elements, washed up on shore, has then become remobilized off the shoreline and our snares picked it up."

Coastal scientist John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation says the biggest risk comes from oil out in the Gulf moving ashore in bad weather.

"We have a major storm it's possible some of the oil that's been deposited may be remobilized. But right now I don't think there's much indication the oil's moving around. But, once again, the Sentinel snares aren't foolproof. Some of the oil could bypass those snares."

Lopez says he helped consultants chose locations to set the snares.

"I'm not saying it's perfect, but I don't know what else we could do."

Team findings are sent each day from mobile devices to the Joint Information Center in Houma.