Alaska response equipment flies from Elmendorf to Gulf

May 11, 2010 

Cargo planes from Elmendorf Air Force base are flying equipment to New Orleans to help with oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the state is offering advice to Gulf states based on experience with the Exxon Valdez.

The equipment, booms and skimmer boats flying out from Elmendorf come from the U.S. Navy and BP, the oil company that leased the exploded drilling rig and owns the well gushing crude oil.

So far, three C-17s from the 517th and 249th Airlift Squadrons have transported 211,000 pounds of equipment to Louisiana. The effort began Monday night and three more flights are scheduled. Elmendorf expects almost 500,000 pounds of equipment to be delivered as part of the operation.

"It's our way of helping out," said Master Sgt. Jason Bradford, Elmendorf aircraft services superintendent.

Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for Gov. Sean Parnell, said the state has identified more than a dozen environmental conservation specialists who "are ready and willing to travel to the Gulf" if needed. She said the state is also offering advice on potential legal issues. She said the Department of Environmental Conservation's food, sanitation and safety experts have also provided information to Louisiana and Florida on practices for detecting petroleum contamination in seafood.

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council has a representative in the Gulf of Mexico, at the request of the Alabama and Mississippi Sea Grant Consortium, visiting communities in the area. Mark Swanson, executive director of the Prince William Sound advisory council, said people in the area have a lot of questions, and are feeling the stress of not knowing what will happen to their communities and livelihoods. Having someone there who went through it with the Exxon Valdez oil spill seems to help, Swanson said.

Cordova author Riki Ott, a scientist and fisherman who has written about the Exxon Valdez spill, is also on the Gulf coast. She's going to small communities and talking to local fishermen about dispersants, lawyers and what to expect.

Greenpeace brought Rick Steiner, a marine scientist who recently retired from the University of Alaska, to the area to monitor the spill.

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