Kindra Arnesen at the Gulf Emergency Summit
New Orleans, 19 June 2010

Click here for the Gulf Emergency Summit website.

Kindra Arnesen, a young mother of two 8 and 5 year-old children, and the wife of a commercial fisherman in Louisiana, became extremely concerned about the lack of progress of the relief operations of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

She had the opportunity to investigate on the spot by participating in a number of meetings with authorities, and in on-site 'clean-up' visits.

She vividly and powerfully describes, at the Gulf Emergency Summit in New Orleans, the harsh reality of what’s really going in the area - and the need to prepare for evacuation of populations.

June 25, 2010

Thank you. OK, I'm not usually a speech-giver. So, you guys try to bear with me; I'll try to make this as painless as possible.

To explain to you where I live, I am indeed the one on the very end. I am at Point 5 on Highway 23 in South Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. Keep in mind through what I have to say, that I am the mother of a five-year-old little boy and an eight-year-old little girl who look like their dad.

That being said, when this first happened, I really didn't know what to do, who to ask questions to, who was going to give us answers.

The first day we were introduced to anyone from BP, they came into our building and said: BP does business right. Yeah! Can you believe that? BP does business right and we're here to take care of everything, folks. Well, 61 days later, that's a joke, to say the least.

Just to give you guys kind of a perspective of where I've been: Four weeks ago, I stood up at a town hall meeting and I indeed did pin down all involved and I had them stuttering by the end of their speech. At any rate, I was invited the following week to go behind "enemy lines". They gave me, of all people, security clearance to go into the base of operations meetings in Venice, Louisiana.

8 a.m., open door invitation to sit like a fly on the wall. Can you believe it? It's really going on.

They also gave me security clearance to go into the Homeland Incident Command Post which is over the entire region of Louisiana. I've been in Coast Guard planes all the way out to the site itself.

Helicopters. Boat rides. I have been everywhere anybody could ever want to go to really get an inside look as to what's going on.

Now, I want to start by telling you guys that I am not at all impressed. Someone told me this morning that they thought I had crossed over. Well, I picked a team a long time ago. My father was a commercial fisherman and my husband's a commercial fisherman. Every man that I've even known, loved, and respected is on the water. They're good men.

At any rate, for the past week I've heard in the ops meeting: We need to cut cost. Yes, that is what they said, that they need to cut cost. I almost came out of my chair the first time I heard it. But I'm trying to stay where I am because someone has to be on the inside overlooking and seeing as to what's going on around. That being said, where I've seen cutting costs is quite unfortunate. What we call, in Venice, what they call...

First we've gotta understand this phrase: ponies and balloons. Well, the only place I've ever seen ponies and balloons is at a circus. Right? At any rate, about a week-and-a-half in, I learned what ponies and balloons meant. Ponies and balloons means that every time an official is headed anywhere near here, they get a heads up. All assets are deployed into the hardest hit areas.

The official comes in, flies over, Good job, fellas, pats ‘em on the back. When that official disappears out of the hardest hit area, so does 75 to 80 percent of the response. It's happening. It's happening every day. I'm watching it. I'm seeing it. I don't agree with it. Anyone in this room's not gonna agree with it. Anyone in our great nation's not gonna agree with it.

We are expendable to these people. We do not matter.

Now, I'm gonna get off that and I'm sorry I talk in circles, but that's the coonass in me. As y'all follow me, then just let me know.

At any rate, I'm gonna go into the health issues for a moment, if you don't mind. I sat through endless hours of meetings with BP's safety officers. I sat through an hour and 45 minute meeting with the Coast Guard Safety Officer, both in the Homeland Incident Command Post, as well as a gentleman from OSHA.

In order to obtain a respirator for our responders — now this isn't just commercial fishermen — I'm talking about Coast Guard members, all responders, people off the street, everybody involved.

Number 1: They have to fill out an OSHA questionnaire.
Number 2: They have to have a physical evaluation by a medical professional.

But, EPA is doing air monitoring. Everything's OK. It's great. Yeah, imagine that.

At any rate, there is in fact some Act somewhere in OSHA's law, that says that volunteers have a right to wear a volunteer respirator. But, as we all know, BP is taking over our Gulf. BP rules right now, our Gulf, I mean... Bottom line, that's who's in charge of the situation.

They couldn't even run their own company and they are in charge of this response! I'm totally appalled!

They can't wear a volunteer respirator because if they're not properly trained... BP's rules are, they have to be properly trained in order to wear a respirator. Now, BP said that they will provide the training and they will provide a respirator. But, everything's OK! So, they don't need to be trained and they don't need a respirator. And as far as the right to wear volunteer respiration? Guess what? If you don't follow BP's rules, you don't have a job. And that's what they told me.

Now, I asked them to discuss the seven men that were brought, one by helicopter and six by ambulance... I asked them if they were at liberty to discuss that with me. And they said, Yes Ma'am, we are. I guess these guys didn't realize who they were talking to.

Number one response from Mr. Hayward was food poisoning. Four different boats, all in… way away from each other. Food poisoning.

Second response was heat exhaustion.

Then last Wednesday — I'm sorry, Wednesday a week ago — when I sat with OSHA and BP's Safety Officer, the OSHA man informed me that all four boats took Pine Sol, sprayed it all over their boats, and then sat and breathed in the fumes all day long and that's what caused the chemical poisoning.

Hold on a second! I've been on boats all my life. I've been with captains all over the place. When we spray something on our boat, we wash it right off. If not, it eats the paint off the boat. We take care of our stuff.

So that right there was just a blatant out lie. So, then I asked them — I throwed one out of left field at them — I said: Well what about the people on 9/11?

He said: It's funny you asked about that, because I was working that job. We were following them around with respirators, begging them to put them on.

And he actually pointed the finger at our New York Firefighters. Yeah, he did! People who are dying a slow death as we sit in this room right now, from chemical poisoning; pointing the finger at them and said that they turned around and gave him the one finger salute, and said: We're not wearing a respirator, we're looking for our friends.

Trained firefighters? In New York? Are you serious?

I wanted to just slap him in the face! But, I was good.

At any rate, you know, my children have broke out in four rashes. My child broke out in a rash the first time. I took her to Florida for four days. It magically cleared up. I brought her back, she broke out again. I left, she cleared up. Now today, she's broke out again. Not to mention that my beautiful, healthy, straight-A student, gorgeous daughter has a double ear infection, upper respiratory problems. I left and went to Baton Rouge and as I drove back home: clearing the throat, the stickiness, the upper respiratory irritation.

You know, the bottom line here is: this morning I contacted Miss Marla Cooper, who is District 9 Councilwoman for Plaquemines Parish. And Miss Marla has three grandchildren in our area and she's just a great grandparent and a good mom. And I told her: Miss Marla, we have got to call an evacuation of our area. We can not allow our citizens to sit like we're out in the middle of the...

We are! This stuff's on all three sides of my home! I walk outside and there's a haze. They're called "bad air days". Folks, stay inside, put your air conditioning on recirculation. Everything's just fine!

Well, why would we need to lock ourselves up in our house? Do you really think that's gonna cut it? Do you really think that's gonna make the situation better? No, it's not! Where do you think air comes from that's in the house? Outside the house.

These people, they never cease to amaze me.

The lack of humanity, here.

I know that my Parish only makes up two percent of Louisiana's population, but does that make my people expendable?! This is unacceptable! They are slowly poisoning every person that I've ever been close to in my entire life and I'm standing here saying, no more!

Now, if I ruffle some feathers, and make some people mad, so be it. I don't care. My people are more important to me than their bottom line. And that is my bottom line.

So basically, this whole ponies and balloons act... If someone does not come in and properly oversee this response... Our marsh now is being used as a boom, an overwhelmed boom, a big, giant sponge.

It's on both sides of us. It will fill up, it is filling up, constantly. We have heavy, heavy crude penetrating our marsh all over the place right now as we speak. They deploy, and then they pull ‘em back in when a politician comes in, and this is not acceptable!

They're not cleaning it up; they're covering it up! This is... We're barely into this. This could go on for years and years and they are already cutting costs! Cutting costs, cutting corners, and taking shortcuts is why we're all sitting in this room today.

Enough is enough!

Now, as far as EPA, OSHA, NOAA, BP and Federal Government, they... Every one of them's in collaboration with each other. That comes from someone at the top of NOAA. That's the kind of people I've been talking to. That came from someone at the top of NOAA, that they're all in collaboration with BP.

Are you serious!?

Who do these people work for?

I thought these were our agencies to protect our better interests, our world, our Earth, our lives and what is going on here? Are we that dependent upon these banks, to just roll over and let them poison our world, and our people in it? This is unacceptable!

A week after this started they want to say: Nothing's going on. Nothing's dying ? A week after this story, I traveled 70 miles east of the original site. There was these shells floating all over the top of the water. Hundreds of thousands of them. They were empty because they were dead. I've never seen a shell float in my life. Dead. A week after.

Four weeks ago when the oil was trajected to hit the west side of our peninsula, I was so mad after I went down to Pascaloocha and seeing what wasn't being done there, that I got in my boat — my dime, my time — and I took a trip. I was like Fox national news on my boat.

I traveled from Red Pass 10 mile... to Four Bayous, about 10 miles, the east side of Grand Isle.

Now, the oil was trajected to hit that side of the peninsula that day. 30 miles! I did not run into one responder! I did not run into one piece of boom, hard or soft. 150 feet of sandbags on a 30 mile stretch of shoreline. This is unacceptable!

So, I decided on the way back, well let me just go out on the coast a little bit and see what's going on. I ran into oil 3/4 of a mile off our coast. Not sheen. Crude. As I'm traveling along back towards Red Pass, I looked over the Gulf and I notice that there's big swarms of birds. That's not unusual. I figured they was diving on bait. But what where they diving into oil sheen? Because birds don't know any better.

We traveled out towards the birds. I wanted to see what they were diving into. I was... I want to know. As we get out to the birds... I don't know if you've been on the water much, or even if you've seen a big school of fish. They have like a boil in the water. It looks like a pot boiling. The fish boil the water; it moves. As we drift into it, it's big Bull Reds with their mouths open, on top of the water, laying sideways, swimming upside down in a circle.

Again, hundreds of thousands of them, school after school after school. They were dying. They were so disoriented that they were running into the side of my boat.

[unclear question from the audience]

That's a real good question. Fox national news swears it's on their website, but I've search it up and down. I've even... You know what? I've got the camera man's phone number in my purse right there. We can call him after and find out exactly where it's at. I've called and asked them for it over and over again, and they won't give it to me. You know what? Everybody is saying a media blackout, a media blackout.

Yes ma'am, there is a media blackout. Sydney, Australia's 60 Minutes came over and they did a real nice piece. I watched it on their website. The transcript is still there. 24 hours after the video hit the website, it disappeared.

[Ed note: it can be seen here.]

You know, as far as the fisherman can catch shrimp elsewhere comment, I want to make something real clear. We have been fighting imports and regulations for the last 20 years. They have regulated us to the point, as commercial fisherman, that my husband personally has seven different permits. The only thing that my husband does not do is oyster.

So, if there's shrimp somewhere else, or we can use gill net or whatever we need to do in order to provide a food source for this country, a natural way to feed people, then somebody point me in that direction and let me know where it is, because I've looked all over the place.

I came back here four-and-a-half years ago and rebuilt on dirt because this is my home and I love Louisiana. I live right out in the middle of nowhere in the boondocks. The bottom line here is, that if the country does not stand up and say no more...

We must take action. We cannot sit back. And if this stuff does not stop, guys, this is gonna go global. It will destroy one-third of the world's water. Bank on it! If they do not stop this — every ocean is connected — it will go on and on and on.

As my daughter says: infinity plus two.

Enough's enough.

I'll take any questions after. Thank you for listening.

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Bill Ryan

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