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May 3, 2010 / V A Nichols

Alabama Beaches Cleaned Before Oil Arrival

Volunteers to clean Alabama beaches before oil spill lands

By Casandra Andrews

May 03, 2010, 5:00AM

The beaches along Dauphin Island and five others in Baldwin County will be cleaned by as many as 1,000 volunteers today before the Gulf of Mexico oil slick ever meets land, organizers said.

The idea is that it’s easier to clean oil from a beach when the sand is free of other trash, such as cigarette butts, paper and plastic.

“We are starting the process of deploying volunteers in stages,” said Roberta Arena Swann, director of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, who helped plan the cleanup along with more than half a dozen other groups.

“We’re being very methodical because we recognize this isn’t a one-time event,” she said of the approaching oil slick. “We are going to be struggling with it for a long time.”

Volunteers who have registered through several local groups’ websites are expected to work from noon until 6 p.m. today at spots along Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Gulf Shores, Gulf State Park and Orange Beach.

For those who would like to volunteer to help with later cleanup efforts in coastal Alabama, visit one of the websites and sign up online. You must be at least 18 to volunteer, organizers said.

When other volunteer events are planned, those who signed up will be contacted by email and/or electronic telephone message to be alerted of dates and times, organizers said.

As of Sunday, more than 7,000 volunteers from across the country had signed up to help, said Casi Callaway, executive director of Mobile Baykeeper.

“We’re focusing on gulf front beaches, our first line of defense,” Swann said. “Those are our most vulnerable areas.”

The coastal planners want the public to know that people should not go into wetland areas or marshes on their own now or later. If oil from the rig explosion makes its way to Alabama’s coastline, volunteers must go through special training before entering those areas, Swann and others said.

“It’s a more complicated kind of cleanup,” Swann said.

At least 20 coastal resource managers, including a representative from BP Plc, met for nearly two hours Sunday to work out a plan for mobilizing volunteers who want to help now.

Swann said, “We needed to do something.”

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