Feature

BP spill: one year on

G Magazine

G's chat with Cherri Foytlin, one of the residents living and breathing life on the Gulf.

BP spill - Cherri Foytlin

"While the government and BP continue to say that everything is great and back to normal, that we can eat the seafood and go back to our lives, we live here and know that nothing’s getting better... it’s getting worse," says Cherri Foytlin.

Credit: Kathy Anderson

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On April 20, 2010, BP’s oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded into a burning fury that killed 11 workers and spewed nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, making it the worst environmental disaster in US history and the world’s largest accidental marine oil spill. One year on, the ramifications are still only just beginning. Here's our chat with one of the residents Cherri Foytlin:

“I live in Rayne, Louisiana, with my husband and six kids. My husband is an oil worker and he’s been out of work for about 10 months now, so we’re barely making it. Here in Louisiana you either fish for a living, you’re an oil worker, or you’re both.

As a community we have spent the last year not being heard. While the government and BP continue to say that everything is great and back to normal, that we can eat the seafood and go back to our lives, we live here and know that nothing’s getting better... it’s getting worse. BP are in charge of the money, they’re in charge of the clean up, they’re in charge of the research, they’re in charge of the government. I’ve never felt so small. I’ve never had such a small voice.

We’re having some major health concerns now. Our tens of thousands of first responders are already getting ill. I have been tested too and out of ten possible toxins I have six in my blood. We have 10 year-olds that are 11 times the normal rate for benzene in their blood. People are starting to get staph infections, stomach problems, headaches, and even seizures. We asked Doctors Without Borders to come in, and believe it or not, they have borders. They wont come down because we’re not a third world country. But when you live in a place where you have no voice, where your people are sick, where your industries are gone and you have no way to feed your family, it darn sure feels like a third world country.

My life changed forever when I jumped on a boat with a fisherman and his little boy, who took me out to see the damage in mid-May last year. We came upon a pelican that was struggling in the water, so we pulled it up out of the water and it was covered in oil; that real thick heavy oil. The pelican started having convulsions. I sat on one side, the little boy on the other, while his dad was trying to get us to Fort Jackson to the clean up operations to get the bird some help. But we didn’t make it and the bird passed away. There was a point where we just shut off the motor and just sat there crying together. It was devastating. That was when something changed inside me. I knew we couldn’t continue to let this happen.

I felt guilty for all the times we’ve thrown things away, and all the times we wanted more, and better,
and we put our Earth to the side. We cannot live from another mother. This is the only planet that we have. These oil corporations are always going to put profits over man until people stand up and say we’re not going to allow you to continue to do this. We’re in charge of that through our buying power. If people didn’t use so much, if we weren’t so greedy, if we didn’t require more all the time, then it wouldn’t be worth it for people to die and kill for it. Oil would have no importance. Yes, these corporations are responsible, but we also have to hold ourselves responsible.

We had 11 people die here, we lost a ridiculous amount of wildlife, and lost an entire ecosystem that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. This is a tragedy like I have never witnessed in my life.”

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For more stories from residents such as Cherri, check out the current April/May issue of G magazine, on sale now.