Oil spill hits home

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2010

A much happier time: Neice Odom and daughter Reva good off on beach shores devoid of tar balls when business was good for the beach property cleaning business. | Courtesy photo

Friday, waves of gooey tar balls were showing up on the white sands of Pensacola Beach as BP engineers tried literally “to put the cap on” the worst oil spill in national history following an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig 45 days ago.

For Odom, a cleaning company owner specializing in beachfront properties in Destin, the progress in stopping the leak is too little, too late.

Her normal beach season, six person staff has been cut to two. Renters are calling in cancellations left and right, and Odom is wondering what the future holds not only for our area beaches, but also for her financial livelihood.

“This is my 15th year working down there in the same area, and I have never seen times so hard as people try to make a go of it,” Odom said. “I usually work seven days a week this time of year, but that’s down to three or four days a week because of this. People just don’t want to spend that money, and get here, and see oil everywhere.”

This time two years ago Odom said she had 28 properties on her list. Now, that number is down by half.

Odom’s daughter, Reva, is one of those former workers. Faced with the inability to pay her bills, she elected to pursue an oil spill clean up job, her mother said.

“She has worked with me at the beach for about six years and has got to do something else right now,” Odom said. “(BP) has gotten her on hold to go do her training, and then it’ll be two weeks before she can actually start work.”

“I am really beyond frustrated about this,” she said. “It has taken a big toll on me. (Cleaning condos) is my source of income March through September – those are the busiest months.

So, it’s easy to see why Odom is frustrated.

Thursday, engineers worked to place an inverted funnel-like device over the leak. It started pumping oil and gas to a tanker on the surface overnight, but it wasn’t clear how much. Preliminary collection estimations are at about 42,000 gallons a day.

Officials say the best chance to plug the leak is a pair of relief wells, which are at least two months away. The well has spit out between 22 million and 47 million gallons of oil, according to government estimates.

Friday, swimmers at Pensacola Beach rushed out of the water after wading into the mess, while children played with it on the shore and others inspected the clump of tar balls with fascination. Oil also cleared beaches in Gulf State Park in Alabama.

Odom said she’s watching the situation with a different sense of fascination – morbid fascination.

“When is it going to end?” she asked. “You sit and wait and wonder – will I be able to hold out until it’s over.”