Nearly sixty days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, oil still continues to flow nearly a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico. While economic effects from the spill are slamming Gulf Coast residents and areas the hardest, some other parts of the nation also are feeling the effects, even in Statesboro.
R.J’s Seafood and Steaks owner Randy Nesmith said that the ongoing spill combined with losses from the economic downturn and rising beef prices has left the future of his business uncertain.
“In two months I might be able to tell you something (about the outlook of my business,)” Nesmith said. “I hope I’m still here.”
James Reichard, an associate professor of geology at Georgia Southern, said that there are many unknowns at play in the disaster. Among those are when the leak will be fixed and what long-term effects the leak will have on the environment.
“Unlike other spills, this one is going into some very fragile ecosystems — the wetlands along the Gulf,” Reichard said. “That’s one thing that makes it unique. In the Alaska spill, those beaches were a lot different than these fragile wetlands. The oil can’t really be cleaned once it gets in these wetlands. The mud just acts more like a sponge.”
But, as the oil continues to flow, it is still affecting the Gulf’s ecosystem, even limiting the amount of seafood that can be harvested. Nesmith said that as of now, his supplier is telling him that the price of shrimp could rise by 50 percent. He currently pays $5 per pound, but could find himself paying $8 per pound for shrimp.
“The company that I was using from that area ... I can’t even get shrimp from them right now,” Nesmith said. “They haven’t been able to get enough shrimp to sell.”
He added that he is searching for shrimp in other areas and that the quality of the shrimp he sells is still good. He said that his restaurant also has oysters on the menu this summer, despite them being out of season.
“I’ve checked the quality and I’m getting a lot of compliments on the shrimp still,” Nesmith said. “At this point we’ve been able to get a good quality product. I’m hoping that it can continue. I’d hate to take shrimp off my menu because it’s been a part of it since ‘81 when we opened up.”
Some experts have said that the oil could drift around the Florida Keys and up the east coast, threatening many other people and the ecosystems along the coast. Reichard said that Georgia could see some oil on the coast.
“I think we could probably expect some, but that’s just my guess,” Reichard said. “It would be far less than what we’re seeing in Louisiana, but it still wouldn’t be good.”
Hurricane season began June 1 and Reichard said that if a storm were to enter the Gulf of Mexico, a landfall could make things much worse for those inland.
“What is a potential problem for land environment is a hurricane,” Reichard said. “If a hurricane comes, it’s going to take all of that surface oil and its going to bring it inland with the rains and the wind, so it could spray both crude oil and those dispersants over the landscape.”
“We just don’t how serious the consequences on the ecosystem would be,” Reichard said.
Georgia Southern junior Katie Crenshaw said that she has not followed the crisis closely for the past two months, but she said that from what she has seen and heard, enough is not being done to fix the problem.
“They might think that they are doing all that they can,” Crenshaw said. “From what I’ve seen, I don’t know what else they could do. I know a lot of people who think that they’re not trying very hard or that their not trying hard enough.”
Reichard said that he would prefer to see a shift to alternate forms of energy production, drilling for oil has to be done now to maintain energy demand. He added that people need to realize that there is a risk involved.
“I used to do petroleum geology and I know we certainly need the extra production,” Reichard said. “People have to realize our search for oil in places like Alaska, the Arctic and the Gulf carries a risk. This is the place we have to realize that it’s always out there.”
Crenshaw said that she has a mixed opinion on offshore drilling, but understands the need for the oil. She added that she is undecided on whether oil should be collected from places such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge due to the ongoing disaster.
“I thought that with all the modern technologies that we have that a slip-up like this couldn’t happen,” Crenshaw said. “I never thought something like this could happen. There’s got to be a way to stop it.”