On Louisiana coast, residents bemoan a lost summer

Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:51pm EDT
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By Anna Driver

HOUSTON (Reuters) - On a typical summer weekend in Grand Isle, Louisiana, Frank Besson's small gift shop would be filled with customers picking up a souvenir as they headed back home from a weekend visit to the beach.

But this summer, business at the Nez Coupe is down about 95 percent, Besson said, as most of this coastal community's beaches remain shut. Motels are filled with workers hired by BP Plc to clean up its oil spill, not tourists.

Since BP's ruptured oil well was capped in July, no oil has flowed into the Gulf of Mexico and efforts are slowly shifting to recovery from clean up. But in Louisiana, the state that took the brunt of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, life is far from normal.

"We're still trying to clean up beaches with tarballs and oil," Besson said. "People are coming here to work, they are not here to spend money."

Grand Isle, a sport-fishing destination located on the southern Louisiana coast, also has some of the state's more popular beaches. It was hit hard by heavy crude oil after the April 20 blow out of the BP well, and the cleanup is still a major operation.

A few beaches are open as the summer nears its unofficial end on the September 6 Labor Day holiday, but people are advised to stay out of the water on at least one beach because it may sicken swimmers, according to the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals Beach Monitoring Program.

Of the 135 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline still covered in moderate to heavy oil, 115 miles are in Louisiana.


<p>Jefferson Parish Sheriff deputies patrol a near-empty beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana July 23, 2010, ahead of Tropical Storm Bonnie. REUTERS/Lee Celano</p>