Local Humane Society worker Judy Spitler on the Gulf cleanup 

The part-time worker with the Peninsula Humane Society recently returned from a three-week stint volunteering to help clean birds in the oil-stricken Gulf of Mexico.

Did you have any idea what to expect in Louisiana? I’ve responded to a few oil spills in the past, including the Cosco Busan, so I had a rough idea of what I would be facing. Still, I had never volunteered for anything on the scale of this spill.

What were your main duties while you were down there? I was stationed in warehouse to help clean up birds, mostly brown pelicans.

What did the cleanup entail? When the birds first came in, they had their blood drawn and were weighed to see how healthy they were. We usually waited about 24 to 48 hours before we washed because it can be extremely stressful for them. Once they were cleared, we marinated them in a kind of pretreatment blend before we washed them. They went into a drying tent, and then a clean tent, before they received a final evaluation. If they were deemed OK, we let them go.

What percent of the birds were released healthy? In Louisiana, it’s been a little over half. It’s heartbreaking to know that we did it to them. It’s easy to point fingers at BP, but we all use oil and we all use petroleum.

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Will Reisman

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