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Oil buried along the Florida Panhandle


Clean-up crews work to remove oil from the beach.
Clean-up crews work to remove oil from the beach.

Jill Colton, staff writer

September 27, 2010 — Crude from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill remains buried underneath white sandy beaches along the Florida Panhandle.

The oil has been buried by the sand and remains underground.
The oil has been buried by the sand and remains underground.

Mere months ago, oil was skimming the water and tar balls were rolling onshore along the Florida Panhandle.

Jump to the present, and people are frolicking on the beaches and building castles on the sand. However, there's a dark cloud of reality hanging over the otherwise perfect beach scene. Bands of oil are buried between 45 and 60 cm below the sand. BP spokesman Ray Melick says the company is working with the Department of Interior for permission to use heavy machinery to remove the entombed oil.

However, because of the National Historic Preservation Act, they're unable to dig deeper. “We are applying for clearance from archaeologists to allow us to go deeper. We want to make sure we don't disturb any archaeological treasure,” says Melick.

Tar balls that washed up on the Gulf Coast in June.
Tar balls that washed up on the Gulf Coast in June.

There is a chance that artifacts from a Spanish settlement founded more than 450 years ago could be discovered. In 2006, the Navy discovered a centuries-old Spanish ship that was buried beneath the sand on Pensacola's Naval Air Station.

BP crews have been working to clear the oil that has collected underneath the sand on the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Federal clearance is also required to dig beneath the ground in those states.

Residents in the area are sick of the bureaucracy that has developed with the oil giant, and many just want the buried oil to be cleaned up as quickly as possible. Thus, Pandhandle beach communities have gotten their hands on the proper Department of Interior permits to dig around 15 cm in the sand with machinery.

“We've seen it out there and we know it exists. It all washed up in waves and ribbons in June and it has been covered up. BP has done the testing and they know where it is” said frustrated resident Buck Lee.

With files from The Associated Press

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