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In The Pipeline: Oil spill needs more help now

Trained director of wildlife care center on call to help says every available boat should be in the gulf.

June 23, 2010|Chris Epting
  • Debbie McGuire, wildlife director at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center, has been asked to help animal-rescue efforts in the oil-afflicted Gulf Coast.
Debbie McGuire, wildlife director at the Wetlands… (HB Independent )

"I've been near what I believed to be a big dirt clod in the muck. Then it blinks. And you realize: It's an oiled bird."

Debbie McGuire, wildlife director at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center here in Huntington Beach, is talking about what it's like on an oil spill recovery mission. McGuire is one of the best when it comes to saving animal lives amid catastrophes like the BP spill, and she soon may find herself in the Gulf.

"I got a call right when it happened to check my availability," she says. "The Oiled Wildlife Care Network called me, and so now, I'm just in a holding pattern. I could be headed down there anytime. But we are trained and ready, and while this is what we prepare for, I've never seen anything quite like this. This is unprecedented, a gushing volcano of oil spewing at least 50,000 barrels per day."

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Debbie is frustrated, as much of the country is right now. BP has misled, obfuscated and deceived the public at many turns when it comes to being upfront about what exactly is happening. Our government was slow to respond, and its response has been inefficient and bureaucratic manner. To me, much of the cleanup and response operation has seemed rudderless and lacking leadership.

The same things are bothering Debbie.

"They need every vessel, from any and every country, period," she says. "Get the military involved. It's clear to anyone watching around the world: This mission is understaffed. Businesses are being lost. And of course, the natural loss is devastating. Prime nesting grounds for the brown pelicans are being wiped out, and they could lose their entire generation of birds this year. When they say they have 44 boats there to clean up, they should have 1,000. Hundreds of us are pre-trained, on standby, and not getting called yet to go there. Something's very wrong."

Debbie has worked on enough local oil spills to know what's how affected animal life is.

"What we see wash up on shore in a tiny fraction of what's being lost," she says. "Birds, turtles, dolphins – as soon as they get filled up with that much oil out at sea, they just sink. We'll never know the real numbers."

Debbie also feels (and I agree with her) that the media must have free access in the area.

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