On Tuesday, Mark Bowen, Chief of Emergency Services, accompanied by Lieutenant Caskey of the Coast Guard, met with the TDC and CVB to discuss plans of action in the event that the oil spill hit Panama City Beach’s shores. Chief Bowen answered questions and concerns from the board as well as from audience members in the attempt to reinforce the message that there is no impact on Panama City Beach, we’re open for business and that we are preparing diligently for that day if it comes.
The plans to manage the consequences of the event, if it happens, will consist of a booming strategy, a beach protection plan and finally, if needed, a comprehensive disposal plan of oils and any contaminated soils and sand. “We all have to understand,” Chief Bowen said, “that we are dealing with an opponent that we don’t understand fully. By the time the oil reaches the shore it will have endured so much dispersant, mixed in the salt water and moved that it will no longer be the oil that comes out of the tanker; it will be emulsified . I’m concerned with being prepared for what gets here and how to best deal with that. You have to know what your opponent is before you can best attack.”
Although the mood of the meeting was one of anxiety, Lieutenant Caskey acknowledged the fortunes of Panama City Beach. “Bay County has the most well-connected EOC around the Gulf.” He went on to say, “As it stand the slick is 70 miles south of Pensacola and moving west. We’re in a good spot.” As it pertained to the efforts of sealing the leak he said, “There has been talk of adding blow out preventers. And (trying the cap strategy again) coming up with a means of keeping the ice out of the dome with chemicals or by pumping fluid into it. If any part of the coast has oil or emulsion, we’ll have eyes on it.”
In the event that the oil reaches 72 hours to impact, the plan will go into action placing containment berms into the water, booms and skims in order to either trap the oil or steer it to vacant portion of the beach where it can be then disposed.
One part of the contingency plan that is still being developed is the disposal of contaminants. Steel Field Land Mill is working to get permits to accept contaminants if need be.
“We have experts, marine biology specialists and people ready for response and clean-up coordinated in the Unified Command in Mobile.”
The most important message in the meeting was to let the public know that Panama City Beach has received zero impact as is still ready and open for business. One member of the audience suggested that all hotels cooperatively agree to give full refunds in the event of oil to assure vacationers.
I think that’s a grand idea.