Area environmentalists say it could take years to clean up spill

By Andrew Wittenberg  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may take years to fully understand.

Even if the slick is contained in the near future, long term damage to the environment is all but certain, according to local environmentalist Lisa Randolph.

"A lot of these oil spills that we've dealt with, deal with coasts that are rocky and here, we're dealing with a much different kind of sediment, and also with the wetlands and the estuary being there, you have a lot of fish and birds coming to breed," Randolph said.

Tonight, as an alarming amount of crude floats toward the shores of the five Gulf Coast states, leaders are deploying multiple government agencies, including the Navy, Coast Guard and environmental management groups.

"We've asked our agencies to prepare to potentially respond to any impacts from the wildlife and our coast," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said.

The goals are simple to define, yet difficult to achieve when the oil well continues to spill more than 200,000 gallons into the gulf each day.

"First, close it off. Two, make sure we understand where it's going and three, make sure we can mitigate whatever damage there is to the coastal areas and our estuaries if and when it does come ashore," Alabama Governor Bob Riley said Thursday.

The containment effort continues, but cleanup could last years.

"The rocks, I mean, you can clean off a rock. Think about a pile of sand. If you pour oil into a clump of sand that you already have, you're not going to be able to separate that oil from the sand very easily. Now, if I had a pile of rocks with oil on them, I could wash the rock, but you can't wash it out of the sand.  It's just going to absorb into it and stay long term," Randolph said.

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