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Renee Blanchard's picture

The one year memorial date of the BP oil disaster is quickly approaching. The news cameras are gone, but the oil isn't. I'm currently sitting in a cafe in Pensacola, Fl having just returned from a monitoring and sampling trip to both Destin and Pensacola beaches. I am visiting Chasidy at the Emerald Coastkeeper. For the past 11 months she has been working with six other Waterkeepers along the Gulf coast in a collective named Save Our Gulf.

Save Our Gulf members are seven Waterkeepers living and working in communities impacted by the BP oil disaster. They have been sharing information, pressuring government and BP officials for more help and better transparency, and gearing up for a decades long fight to restore the Gulf coast.

I recently relocated to the Gulf coast to help with Save our Gulf. I am helping to coordinate the Waterkeeper's efforts and by talking to my friends and family who do not live in this region, I am shocked to learn that most people believe the oil is gone and the seafood is safe. But that just isn't true.

The fishermen that helped in those 87 days the oil was spilling, using their own boats, putting their own lives in danger to protect their homes, are sick from the widespread use of dispersants and the crude oil they came into contact with. Small family businesses that depend on the health of the Gulf of Mexico are out of work. And BP is throwing millions into advertising campaigns around the country to make you believe that all is right again.

There are few if any health clinics open to communities to receive medical care and no medical bills are being paid for by BP. Not to mention very few doctors that are even willing to see the connection between the toxic chemicals used to disperse the oil and the ongoing medical problems being felt by so many on the Gulf coast. And the government has yet to create a forum for those still sick to find the help they need.

Restoration is at its very beginning stages and we still need your help. The Gambit, a local New Orleans newspaper, released a great article last week called Built to Spill. It eloquently discusses how the lack of enforcement from the state of Louisiana is incentiving oil spills. Less than 1 in 100 oil spills result in any fines, creating financial incentives to be careless with our community's and environment's health.

There are so many things happening in our country and around the world that can seem overwhelming. That can make you just stop paying attention. It's understandable and I find myself doing the same thing sometimes. But there are simple things you can do to help those on the front line of the continuing BP oil disaster.

Here are three:

(1) Contact your Congressional delegation. The Clean Water Act fines will be appropriated this year. With our current political and financial climate there is no guarantee that those fines will go where the rightly belong; the people of the Gulf coast. We need your help to make sure your Congressional delegation supports that all the money returns to where the damage was done; the Gulf coast.

(2) Speak up. Talk to your friends and family about the ongoing disaster. Keep updated with Save Our Gulf's weekly blog 'Thursday's Gumbo' and then share it with those you are close to so that our story doesn't get ignored.

(3) Donate to Save Our Gulf. We can't work without donations. The news cameras are gone, but we are still here. Whatever you can give $5, $10, $50 will help make sure that we are able to continue sampling the water, soil, and marine life for toxic chemicals and fighting for health care for those that were on the front lines in the days of the spill. This sampling and monitoring makes it harder for BP and government to mislead our communities and the rest of the nation.

Our Waterkeepers are on the front lines of the BP oil disaster. They are the fishermen, the community members, the people of the Gulf coast who were here before the oil and will be here after all the attention goes away. The oil is not gone. The Gulf coast needs your help.

Thank you for your time. And please pass this along so that our communities are not forgotten.

Renee Blanchard

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