Polk trio hears talk by Ott, biologist, expert on oil spill recovery

Published 12:55 pm Friday, July 16, 2010

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles about the efforts of Samantha Lovelace and other local residents to help in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill. The first article ran on Tuesday, June 29, and the second on Friday July 9.

by Emily Riddle

When Samantha Lovelace, Quincy Jackson and Chris Riddle traveled to the Gulf Coast in June, they saw firsthand that clean up of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is likely to outlast its news coverage. In other words, the communities along the coast may slowly slip from the headlines in the coming months, but their ways of living will be drastically changed for years to come.

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No one is more familiar with this fact than Riki Ott, a marine biologist from Alaska. She witnessed the Exxon Valdese oil spill in 1989 when she was working as a commercial fisherman in Cordova, Alaska. As her website states, she saw how the local economy, communities and thousands of miles of environment [in Prince William Sound] were devastated. And then ignored.

The trio from Polk County heard Ott speak in Fairhope, Ala. We couldnt have felt any better if Wonder Woman had shown up, said Lovelace in her blog. Shes the nations leading expert on recovering from this kind of disaster. Some of what she had to say was hard to hear, but she didnt scare us either.

Resources on Otts website list potential health problems caused by chemicals in crude oil and dispersants including damage to the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, circulatory system and immune system, among others. While some effects of oil toxicity are immediate, some of these health problems can take time to develop and present, says Lovelace, so they are included in the long-term effects of such disasters.

Otts focal message is public health and the environment, according to Lovelace, and her manner of speaking empowers listeners. Delivering facts about toxic water and resulting environmental concerns can be a daunting task, but Ott is able to help [citizens] focus and get motivated, says Lovelace.

Riki Ott is one of many who are speaking out about the crisis in the Gulf. As media coverage of the oil leak, cleanup efforts and impacted communities dwindles, activists like Ott will continue in their mission of justice for everyday people, their livelihood and the environment.

For more information on Riki Ott, visit her website, www.rikiott.com.

To follow Lovelaces blog, visit www.samsdayoff.blogspot.com.