Archive for clean up

Why BP doesn't let you see the toxic waste

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The following comes via my BP whistleblower source boricua1968. He provided me with all kinds of details about Gulf laborers being given false safety certification, disregard for clean-up workers' safety, cutting corners, etc. You can find my piece here.

I discussed that particular post today on the Nicole Sandler radio show, mentioning that I'd posted a video about how the toxic sludge collected from the Gulf beaches were heavily guarded and kept secret. Apparently boricua1968 was listening.

Today he e-mailed me with this:

BP gets fined by the Government on how much oil is spilled minus the amount recovered.  There were times when the workers would take ‘absorbent’ boom off of the beaches and waterways that were just dirty (not necessarily contaminated with petroleum) and that gets weighed and disposed of in the same decon as the oil…that weight increases the amount of ‘recovery’ even if there was no oil on it.  If you were allowed to see inside the waste area, you would see that there is lots of waste with no oil…you cannot see that.

That answers that.

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TPC Exclusive! Oil disaster whistleblower's VIDEO: After Deepwater Horizon fire, were sharks feeding on bodies?

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Here I was, minding my own bloggy little beeswax, when out of the blue, I got an e-mail from someone who will be referred to as "boricua1968". He was a safety officer for the BP oil disaster clean-up operations and has quite a story to tell.

He provided me with documentation of everything he chronicled to me, but unfortunately, it's too much to post here. Trust me when I tell you there are pages and pages of forms, photos, slide shows, certificates, you name it.

Boricua1968 actually taught the training class that Barkway, another excellent source of mine, has referred to. He found me via The Google:

I just googled ‘fake HAZWOPER certificates’ to see if anybody had done a story about it and your blog was one of the results.  I agreed with what you had already written and decided to reach out to you.

I will now let him do the talking:

I can provide proof of fake HAZWOPER certificates and e-mails from my company regarding our loss of per diem and reduction in wages if you would like to see them.

I was a Safety Officer for the spill cleanup operations at Port Fourchon, LA and for boom operations and cleanup stationed on a barge in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet off of Hopedale, LA. Like one of your readers stated, the smart people left when the pay reductions came around.  I left for that reason and the inability to procure safety equipment for the workers.

I was a Lead Safety Officer at Port Fourchon, LA operations and on a barge with a boom maintenance flotilla out of Hopedale, LA.  Out of at least 500 laborers that I oversaw, very few actually knew how to don PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as a Tyvek suit (one of the most basic PPE’s for this line of work) yet every single one of them claimed to hold HAZWOPER certifications.  The majority of them were Hispanic workers hired by a staffing agency called ‘The Tamara Group’ which is contracted to a company called ‘Oil Mop’.  On the barge, hardly anybody even knew what a Tyvek suit was much less how to put it on to protect themselves properly.  (This ‘donning’ and ‘doffing’ is a substantial part of HAZWOPER training).

One time, I had a need to see the HAZWOPER certifications for a certain group of employees and the Tamara Group refused to send me copies of them.  Eventually, Oil Mop provided me the copies that Tamara had sent to them and I noticed that the certificates were not properly formatted, didn’t include the instructor’s license number or contact information, and had the word ‘occupation’ misspelled. It was a very poorly made computer-generated certificate that made me immediately suspicious.  I asked the persons to whom the certificate was issued about their training and they advised me that they had only had a brief (couple of hours) orientation provided by the female owner of the staffing agency.  I asked them questions about specific training modules required to be taught in the HAZWOPER class and NONE of them had any idea what I was talking about.  I can send you a couple of these certificates... [He did]

I was told not to question the lack of training of these individuals and one of the upper management responded by saying, “So what, oil isn’t that toxic and they are getting the job done anyway.”

On the barge, workers were discouraged from reporting accidents and injuries and there was a concern about TB at one time so I offered to have PPD tests done on everybody but I was told not to make that request because they did not want to alarm anybody on-shore that there may be a potential problem if it turned out to be nothing.  All HAZWOPER workers are supposed to have a complete physical before being assigned to work but none of them had even visited a doctor prior to being stationed on the barge.

We were told many times (from my initial orientation in Mobile, AL to daily briefings in Port Fourchon, LA) that if we ever spoke to ANY reporter from any media outlet, we would be fired on the spot.  We were prohibited from taking photos although I took thousands once I got to the point that I didn’t care if they caught me or not.

On the barge, we were supposed to be paid for a 24 hour day but that was reduced to a maximum of 16 hours on July 1st (they actually made it retroactive to June 24th and I had to fight to get the pay until the day of our notification).  On Sunday, July 4th around 5:00 pm, we received an e-mail stating that we would no longer receive any per diem but that certain expenses would be covered if receipts and records were properly kept. These two events reduced our income by about 50%.  Later, the allowable reimbursements were so restricted that hardly anything was going to be reimbursed.  When I complained, my boss sent me an e-mail stating that the scope of this project was big enough to be considered a ‘resume builder’ and that I should, basically, be grateful to be working on it.

We could not get gloves, insect repellent, sunscreen, proper footwear, etc. on the barge and many PPE had to be shared or re-used.

I have a video of sharks feeding on the bodies of some of the victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster…that was never released to the public and the families were never informed of the ghastly probability.

Here is that video:


We were not evacuated during the threat of Hurricane Alex but when the smaller TD Bonnie came through, the ENTIRE Gulf of Mexico was evacuated.  When we left on July 22nd, there was a shitload of oil out there…when we came back on the following Monday, there was nothing.  I can’t say, with authority, what happened to it but the rumors abounded that there were some heavy duty dispersant applications over the weekend when there were no witnesses out on the waters.  Many said that it was more than a coincidence that an American was named as head of BP that same week.

I also have pictures of a baby pelican that was oil soaked and rescued by us [see further down the post]…upper management ordered us to take it to an island near the boat and let it go…they did not want to deal with the paperwork of having to report the distressed wildlife.

...

I am listening to the radio interview of ‘Martha’ [Barkway] and the PEC training that she had to go through.  I had a higher level of that training but actually taught the training class that she is talking about.  I can send you the slide show for that training. [He did]  I asked for the test for that training and was told, via e-mail, to make up my own questions and to strive to pass EVERYBODY.

E-mail from boricua1968 on June 22, 2010, to that effect:

Good Morning,

I received the packet for the Module 2 training which has the instructions for registering the participants, the printout of the Module 2 PowerPoint presentation, and the student answer forms with the temporary cards.  However, it did not have the test anywhere in the package.  Could you e-mail me a copy of the test so that I can go ahead and give the class?

Here's the response:

There is no formal test for Module 2 other than what you would like to do.

Moving on:

The risks are minimized and these were not readily available to the workers regardless…especially the Hispanic workers that were not provided copies in Spanish.

[T]here is nothing substantial in that training…it is basically an ‘overview’ and MIGHT be considered an introduction to a more detail oriented course to prepare workers for the toxins that they may encounter.  Anyway, it shows that ‘Martha’ [Barkway] was right about it being just a PR show that BP is concerned for the worker’s safety.

[M]inimal training was provided after the workers had been there for a couple of months.

Here are the suspect certificates...notice how 'Occupational' is misspelled. [It was spelled with one "C"] Compare those to mine. [He provided me with several certificates, including his own]

[I]t is illegal to provide certificates to people that have not received adequate training.  There have been several people arrested for this same thing after Katrina.

And about those illnesses we hear so much about:

I had some concerns about a ‘sickness’ that was going around on the boat and myself and a colleague are still plagued with an upper respiratory infection and we believe it came from that project…I was concerned that some of the workers may not know how to go about determining that and remembered that most of them had not had a complete HAZWOPER training.

This next part struck me:

Truth be known, I am a Conservative and usually vote Republican but right is right and wrong is wrong. They have exposed these workers to some serious health issues and contracted companies who charged a high price per hour while only paying $10-$12/hr to the immigrants. In the interest of full disclosure, I was making $18.00/hr at a minimum of 16 hour days, 7 days a week, and was originally given a $160.00/day per diem on top of that.  These workers on the barge never received a per diem and were only paid for 12 hour days while the workers on the ‘beach’ received $20.00/day per diem and the rest was pocketed by the staffing agencies or contractors.

[W]e were not allowed to share even minimal amount of information [about personal protective equipment] with the workers.

He then shared a more personal story regarding stress management:

Supervisors and up would take naps during the day (myself included) and we would jokingly refer to these as stress naps.  We were not allowed to distribute this memo to the workers (who were not allowed to be below deck or in their bunks during working/standby hours) and were not even allowed to mention stress naps to anybody other than management.  Remember, I was not a direct supervisor so I had no say in what the workers should be doing during hours that they were being paid but I can guarantee you that anybody in a Supervisory position or above took naps while the workers were not allowed to.

I feel bad but, I had the opportunity to take naps and I took advantage of it…I was tired of being there anyway and I wasn’t going to be a champion of workers’ rights and lose any advantages that I had.  I hope that doesn’t make me appear to be a ‘monster’. [It doesn't]

Remember how compassionate BP spokespeople are in those genuinely heartfelt commercials that are airing now? Yeahnotsomuch. Oh, and patriotism? Fugetaboutit:

And an AMERICAN FLAG!!! They wouldn’t even provide us with one.  I bought the flags that you will see in the video with my own money.  BP and its contractors would not supply them to fly above the vessels.

Speaking of compassion:

Here is the oil covered bird that we were told to take to an island and set free instead of calling Wildlife officials:


Re: Paranoia, firings, blackballing:

..I was asking to get a copy of my OSHA 10 and 30 Hour certifications.  They did not want to release these certifications to anybody for the stated reason of a suspicion that the person may go to work for another company but, more than likely, they were concerned about the legitimacy of these certificates and didn’t want them floating around (I have never worked for a company that withheld certificates of its employees’ accomplishments).  This particular e-mail also demonstrates the fragile nature of employment on the BP project where people were threatened with being fired and ‘blackballed’ for any small reason. [I have a copy of the e-mail]

As of June 24th, the worst oil disaster in U.S. history was no longer considered to be an emergency:

This is an e-mail showing that our pay would be reduced by 8 hours per day apparently because BP no longer considered this to be an ‘emergency’ as of June 24th, 2010 while the oil was still gushing full blast into the Gulf. [I have a copy of the e-mail]

And here are a few more grenades he threw my way:

E-mail indicating the exodus of trained safety supervisors due to working conditions and being managed by inexperienced personnel.  One company actually started replacing trained employees with untrained family members. [I have a copy of the e-mail]

E-mail indicating that we were supposed keep a lid on any problems that may arise. [I have a copy of the e-mail]

This is the Site Safety Plan...notice on the next to the last page it requires that all workers submit to a medical examination prior to being deployed.  Not a single one of us had an examination. [I have a copy of the plan]

They didn’t want us to fail anybody…on the back of the instructor sheet it actually says: “I, the instructor, agree that any and all questions skipped or answered incorrectly by the student have been reviewed and that the correct answer has been written in the space provided.”

Objective: Fraud, abuse, & profit.

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VIDEO sequel: BP raped the Gulf of Mexico but did they also rape this clean-up worker?

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The other day I put up a post entitled "BP Contract Supervisor (former convicted sexual predator) Rapes Clean-Up Worker," thanks to a link I got from Hugh Kaufman (senior policy analyst with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response).

Now we have an excellent video of the CNN report that provides much more heart-wrenching, anger-provoking detail. I'm glad they're airing this repeatedly, but I hope they go further with it.

BP and others need to be held accountable. Among the "others" is a familiar name, Aerotek. And who is Aerotek? Glad you asked.

I posted about them here, thanks to my very own whistleblower, the renowned DeepwaterThroat, Barkway (all my Barkway posts here), who said of the company:

I wondered if the clean-up agencies were still hiring, so I looked up one of the main companies, a top hazardous job company, Aerotek. They are advertising nearly exclusively on websites that cater to Latinos.  That made me ask two things.

One: Are they lumping them in with the  “garbage people” who they referred to as N-words, people who will work for nothing?

Two: Were they hanging out a sign saying, “Illegal immigrants welcome”? Why advertise on those sites, ones that were written in Spanish only?

They’re using prisoners for clean-up so they don’t have to pay them.  Now, if they hire undocumented workers, they won’t need paperwork. They can pull from an army of people. This is a big company, they have offices all over Florida.

Of course, Aerotek passed the buck. "We are not liable,"  they protested. They pointed the finger directly at the Miller Environmental Group, because they hired Aerotek, who then pointed the finger at BP who pointed the finger at...

With all that public finger-pointing, I hope they all paid good corporate money for manicures.

Here's hopes CNN follows up on this report. Skating is not an option for BP, Aerotek, Miller, or anyone we may not yet be aware of.

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BP Contract Supervisor (former convicted sexual predator) Rapes Clean-Up Worker

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My pal and wonderful source for all things BP, Hugh Kaufman (senior policy analyst with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response) sent me a link to another stomach-turner:

Jackson County, Mississippi, Sheriff Mike Byrd told CNN he was shocked when he met with the local head of BP security as the company was cranking up beach clean-up operations. The sheriff was told BP wasn’t doing background checks on oil-spill clean-up workers.

Gee, that would have led to information they'd have to ignore so they could keep the pay scale nice and low. My whistleblower, Barkway, has also told us all about BP's cutting corners. What a fine organization they are.

Byrd said he told the BP official that "you're going to have every type of person coming in here looking for a job and you're going to have the criminal element in here and we're not going to know who we're dealing with if we don't do background checks on these people."

Byrd believes if a simple background check had been done, the alleged rape could have been prevented.

So BP didn't screen, a convicted sex offender was charged with raping a co-worker, and to make matters worse, the creep hadn't even registered as a sex offender. Did I mention he was on probation for a felony?

Let's recap: To save a few bucks, BP decided screening employees was passe, they hired a predator to supervise clean-up workers, and he rapes one of them. I want to shout that recap to the world so loudly it can't be ignored.  I want this story plastered all over the media. I want the truth out there.

BP: "We will make this right."

Bull Pucky.

Who's going to clean this up, hmm?

Hugh e-mailed the following:

BP didn't want background checks. 
Ultimately, I guess, BP'd have to end up paying cleanup workers more money if they screened out folks with disturbing criminal records for things like rape.
Looks like BP, not the Government, is the ultimate boss.

Hugh knows how to cut right to the chase.

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BP contract workers — many black & Latino — bring out Grand Isle's ugly side. Confederate flags go up.

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I hate reporting on this, I hate reading this, I hate that this exists, but I am, I did, and it does:

Overnight this hot, drowsy, white southern Louisiana fishing town was awash in spilled oil and outsiders, many of them African American and Latino, who wore their pants down low, cruised through town with stereos blaring and caroused at all hours. Some of those workers, BP officials said, had criminal records.

Wait. I thought just about everyone wore their pants low these days. And the cruising and loud music sounds pretty typical. Then again, I live in a larger town.... and it does get on my nerves. But that first sentence sounded a little, well, strong.

Despite the influx of loud, baggily attired night owls, guess what:

Grand Isle Police Department statistics show that crime is down.

You read that right, there is no crime wave. But the way things are headed, that rate could go up any minute now.

Last week, five residents displayed Confederate flags, while others hoisted the skull-and-crossbones.

Welcome to Grand Isle.

Unfortunately, and horrificly,  an African American contract worker urinated on a neighbor's fence.

"My kids were in the swimming pool at the time," Chaisson recalled, "and that guy was laughing and looking right at me. [...] That triggered World War III in this neighborhood."

A group of angry residents [...] complained to the landlord, who evicted the tenants the same day. They were later replaced by white tenants.

Wait, so white people don't do disgustingly creepy things like that?  Well then, thank goodness! I say we replace every African American or Latino tenant with a white tenant, and the United States will be much more peaceful and filled with brotherhood and harmony.

...Theresa Brunies, 48, who has hung a large Confederate flag over the outside balcony of her home, said, "I'd hate for Grand Isle to become known as a racist community. But these flags are just our way of telling strangers to keep out."

Gee, that's not racist at all. I'd hate for Theresa to be labeled as one, what with people possibly misconstruing that little ol' Civil War "Keep Out sign" draped across her house like that.

I wonder how BP responded:

[BP] responded almost immediately, DuBois said, by hiring a task force to conduct random drug tests and background checks.

What, they didn't assign a preemptive Confederate flag to every resident?

400 workers failed the tests and checks, or wouldn't take them.  Add 400 to those unemployment numbers we hear so much about.

Curtis Thomas, who is African American, is BP's public relations representative in Grand Isle:

"The folks who live on Grand Isle have a homogenous clientele [...] They weren't used to seeing a mass of people of color coming into their isle — right or wrong, it made them nervous."

And now Grand Isle is making me nervous.

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VIDEO: TPC’s own BP whistleblower on the Nicole Sandler Show

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Thank you so much, Nicole Sandler, for paying attention and for getting Barkway’s story out:

Nicole Sandler speaks with Teddy Partridge and David Dayen (both of FireDogLake) about today's ruling that says Prop 8 is unconstitutional; Derrick Crowe of Rethink Afghanistan; @Barkway-Deepwater Throat whistleblower; and The Nation's Christian Parenti re: "The Big Green Buy"

We won’t give up on this story until everyone listens to our amazing source, our own “DeepwaterThroat”, Barkway.

All my Barkway-related posts can be found here.

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VIDEO: TPC's own BP whistleblower on GritTV with Laura Flanders

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Someone finally listened to us, and the someone was the wonderful Laura Flanders her very own self, over at GritTV. Thank you so much, Laura and GritTV for paying attention and for getting Barkway's ("Martha") story out:

"Anything BP does and doesn't do is to preserve their profits and their future ability to operate in the United States, no more, no less." That's according to "Martha," a hazardous waste worker in the Gulf, who joins us via Skype anonymously to report on the conditions workers are facing cleaning up BP's mess.

"Martha" has been reporting on conditions to the blog The Political Carnival, where more of her stories of workers being fired, prisoner labor used in cleanup, improper training and safety conditions, and of course, following the money around the trail of contracts and confusion that is the Gulf Coast post-Deepwater Horizon.

We won't give up on this story until everyone listens to our amazing source, our own "DeepwaterThroat", Barkway.

All my Barkway-related posts can be found here.

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