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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Beneath the Oil Spill; Is Gulf Seafood Safe?; Oil Spill's Mental Health Impact
Aired July 9, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again from the Gulf. Anderson Cooper is off tonight. I'm Sanjay Gupta.
By now, this live picture is familiar, way too familiar in the worst kind of way, the Macondo well still gushing a mile below the water's surface 81 days into this spill, BP still making promises to contain and collect the oil. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And, today, the head of the federal response, Admiral Thad Allen, said BP will begin replacing the leaking well's containment cap tomorrow with a larger, more permanent one. Now, if it works, the new cap, we're told, will collect more oil than the old one. But could it also potentially cause some new problems? A real concern.
And Tom Foreman joining me now to explain how this just all might work -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Sanjay.
These are the big things to watch for this weekend. Right now, what you have on this well is a containment cap right down here which is collecting some oil. You have seen the pictures of it all time with the oil gushing out from it around the sides. That's because there are vents which are open in the sides here to let some oil out, so they don't have too much pressure to just blow it off, because it's just sitting there.
But that's what's happening right now. And that oil is coming up to a ship above here. They also have some oil coming out of a vent in the side here up to another ship. And, this weekend, they're trying to move another ship into place. They're hoping to maybe even add a fourth.
Overall, this will increase the containment of oil here from right now around 23,000 barrels a day to hopefully 50,000 barrels a day. But that brings us to the other important thing to watch this weekend. They're going to replace the cap here. And I want to show you a close picture of that.
Right now, the cap is collecting some of the oil. They're going to take this cap away. And that's going to release the oil entirely for a while. So, initially, it's going to be an increase of oil from that part of it. Then they're going to bring in what they hope is a tighter cap, but that they can bolt into place and really seal down. When that happens, Sanjay, they think they might be able to say that they truly get almost complete containment. They have got some vents in that that they are going to play with, too, see if they can get complete containment.
But those are the major things happening this weekend, Sanjay.
GUPTA: And such an important point again, you know, those vents, it's like -- someone explained it like shaking up a bottle and trying to cap it. The cap will just blow off unless you can slowly vent out.
And what you're describing sounds promising. And the admiral's comments sounded promising today. But is there something that could go wrong with this? Is there a possible concern there?
FOREMAN: Yes, there are several concerns here.
First of all, what if -- you bring this thing down here. This blowout preventer we're dealing with is not perfectly straight. We have show it here the it's a little bit crooked. There's always been a worry about how stable this is. This could fall over. You could have an uncontained spill altogether.
What if you can't get this part to fit? They had a hard time the first time. Then where are you? And just as importantly in all of that, Sanjay, is, look at this. What if, while you're trying to do this, you have a big storm system come brewing in from the sides? If that happens, all collection has to cut loose. All the ships have to go away. And you wind the well just emptying out here maybe for days, maybe for weeks, as long as it takes to get back to the game -- Sanjay.
GUPTA: Tom, good -- good description there.
There's some good weather here, Tom. I don't know if you can see behind us. But it's been the first sort of break in the weather for some time, which why I think the admiral was optimistic. We will certainly keep tabs on that.
We also got some new pictures tonight of the oil disaster, this time from beneath the waves. Suiting up in special hazmat suits, Amber Lyon and cameraman Rich Brooks braved the contaminated water at a spot that was once popular with divers.
Some remarkable footage, and they -- they join me now.
Thanks for joining us, guys. I know you have had quite a day.
I want to -- you guys were actually able to be live from underwater. And I want to ask you in a second how you did that.
But, Amber, you were able to get a view today of life below the surface. We're used to seeing oil a mile down and on the surface. What's it like where you were?
AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sanjay, you know, the thing about it is, above all, we wanted to show what's going on underneath the water with all of these dispersants. You know, they break up the oil into little-bitty pieces.
And it literally was like that. When we went under the water, you would just see pieces and pieces of oil all around you, especially on our last dive, where we literally had to go through a film of oil to get down into there.
And then you would get down below the water and you would look up and you could see a film of the dispersants above you. And I think that's the big thing here, the -- kind of the new phase to this oil spill. Especially today out on the water, we saw that.
We weren't seeing as many huge patches of oil on the surface, but we were seeing a lot of oil underneath the surface. And, as many people have said, this is kind of a science experiment.
LYON: They're saying that putting dispersants in the water is the lesser of two evils. But some scientists are also saying, is it really the lesser of two evils when we don't really know the long-term effects of a dispersant-crude mixture on humans, or animals, for that matter.
GUPTA: Right. Right.
LYON: And that's why you saw us in those hazmat suits today, Sanjay.
GUPTA: Well, you are a diver, I assume, Amber, to have done something like this.
The marine life, you know, people dive recreationally so they can see the marine life. What was it like? I mean, did you see much?
LYON: Well, one thing that concerned our boat captains was that, on the way out there, we didn't see a lot of bait fish. They say they normally see bait fish that live in the upper water column.
And those just were not there. So, that concerned them. But when we were in the water, we did see saw some sharks swimming around us. And so that was a good sign to see them alive. Besides that, though, we didn't really see anything but cloudy water. There was not a lot of life going on down there, Sanjay.
GUPTA: Amber, I'm glad you said that seeing sharks was a good sign. I think most people might not totally agree with you on that.
GUPTA: But let me bring in Rich for a second here.
Rich, this as amazing. I know you and I have been talking about this. You were able to get a live shot from underwater, in the middle of an oil spill. People are fascinated by that from a technology standpoint. Can you tell us a little bit just how you did that?
RICH BROOKS, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: Well, we had our EX1 camera in an Equinox housing. And we had a video cable up to the surface going over to our professor, Phil Littleton (ph), with our marine tracking (INAUDIBLE).
And, so, it was quite a technical sort of undertaking. For this all to happen, everything had to happen just right. We had Amber and Philippe on communication boxes back up to the surface. And I only had the camera, basically. And, so, we were down there. We were in our suits, which had a lot more buoyancy. And it all came together fantastically, and we gave you what we gave you today.
LYON: I got to give Rich a lot of credit, Sanjay...
LYON: ... because we're down there -- we're down there right now. When we were underwater doing the live, Philippe and I were able to hold on to a rope with our hands. So, we had stability.
LYON: But Rich has to hold on with both hands to the camera and float there underwater.
GUPTA: No, it's remarkable.
LYON: And he did an amazing job. So, he really helped make this happen for us.
GUPTA: Well, great work, both of you, not only from the middle of the ocean, but under the ocean literally.
Rich, by the way, I'm going to buy you sunscreen. Doctor's orders, you got to wear it next time, all right?
GUPTA: Thanks a lot, guys.
BROOKS: It was very hot out there.
GUPTA: Appreciate it.
BROOKS: And I did have sunscreen on.
GUPTA: I know.
BROOKS: But it didn't work very well.
GUPTA: All right.
LYON: Take care, Sanjay. GUPTA: Well, thanks again. Great works, guys.
BROOKS: Take care.
GUPTA: Thanks so much.
People at the breaking point: an up-close look at the mental health concerns. For some, the stress of this disaster is just too much for them. Will BP step in and help them out?
Also ahead: my conversation with the head of BP's medical response in the Gulf -- remarkable things he said, the surprising things he said about the number of cleanup workers they're actually treating.
Plus: making sure the seafood pulled from the waters is safe to eat, a big question. We're going to take you straight inside the government's testing facility. We have got that coming up.
GUPTA: Ever since the oil started flowing from the well, the Gulf states have been tracking the health effects from the disaster. And there have been many reports of disaster-related illnesses.
It's not just the states who have been checking. So has BP.
Dr. Kevin O'Shea is leading the company's medical response. And he said more than 1,500 cleanup workers have complained of illness or injury. But, at the same time, he said he wasn't aware of any significant respiratory illnesses.
As a doctor, I wanted to know what BP is doing to monitor the long-term health effects. What exactly are they doing to get that important information?
Here's Dr. O'Shea had to say.
GUPTA: If someone has been out there -- and there -- and you have heard these complaints, I'm sure, like I have. They complain of -- of burning in their -- in their sinuses, in their throat, lightheadedness, nausea, headaches. What is that? Is that -- is that exposure to these toxic elements?
DR. KEVIN O'SHEA, BP'S MEDICAL UNIT LEADER: Regarding the symptoms that we're seeing, we don't have a good explanation.
GUPTA: Does it surprise you that there's not a good explanation? Because, I mean, they -- they're -- what a lot of people are telling -- are saying is that, look, we're smelling this stuff. We don't feel well afterwards. We are exposed to this stuff. We get rashes.
O'SHEA: Right. They -- and they do come in. And we do evaluate them. And we do treat them and -- and assure that there hasn't been any ill effect from a chemical out there. Sometimes, we can't explain why.
GUPTA: But, I mean, there are gray areas of medicine. You...
O'SHEA: Oh, absolutely, yes.
GUPTA: I mean, you know that probably better than anybody.
With regard to testing, if someone comes in with any kind of complaint, are you just getting baseline blood testing, or are you only doing it in cases where you're strongly suspicious of something?
O'SHEA: We do not have any set protocols out there. So, we rely on the -- the occupational medicine physicians, the emergency room physicians to do appropriate evaluation and treatment of the individuals.
So, I would know, in some cases, yes, there's blood work being done. In all cases, I can't tell you that.
GUPTA: You know, these patients coming in, they have -- they have cold-like symptoms. They have got these rashes and other things, and they're just told that this is all due to a virus. I mean, just -- that didn't sound right to me. Does that sound right to you?
O'SHEA: Not having -- not being able to evaluate any specific examples, but we have 40,000 responders out there. People will get sick as well.
So, I -- we are not influencing the practitioners out there in any way. We are reliant on them to use their clinical judgment, understand what the exposures are, and understand what the symptoms are, and give their best diagnosis for the situation.
GUPTA: Because of this -- this concern that, you know, you're -- you're with BP.
GUPTA: A worker may say, look, you have got a dog in that race. If they come to you, a worker, and they're not happy with what you or your doctors have told them, can they go somewhere else?
GUPTA: And will that be covered by BP?
O'SHEA: Well, as far as going somewhere else, we know that people have bypassed the EMS personnel that we have and have gone in to their -- their -- see their personal doctors.
And we have -- we don't have a problem with that. They just need to go through the claims process and the workers compensation process. And that would be -- be handled that way. So, we know that it's happening. We're not forcing people to see any of the -- the health facilities that we have out in the field. GUPTA: After Valdez, they said, of 11,000 workers that were studied, some reports say that more than 6,000 of them eventually were -- were -- got ill, some longer-term, some shorter-term, some very long-term, and they developed significant problems.
Is that something you worry about?
O'SHEA: It is. And that's why we have engaged the Institute of Medicine and other government agencies, Health and Human Services, NIH, to look at long-term health studies. We are...
GUPTA: But -- but there aren't any right now to look at, right? I mean, there's no...
O'SHEA: The long-term health studies? No. I don't believe from any of the oil spills -- the Institute of Medicine had a -- a seminar here, and there -- there were not any long-term health studies that were out there.
GUPTA: So, you're working in a little bit of a black hole. I mean, you just don't have the precedent to base this on.
O'SHEA: For long-term health studies? No, we do not.
GUPTA: Now, the symptoms don't have to be physical. Some, of course, are psychological. We have heard reports of a spike in mental health issues since the catastrophe here.
Now, BP has vowed to do its part to help. But has it?
Randi Kaye goes "Up Close."
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Louisiana's health secretary sent this letter to BP last week requesting $10 million in funding for mental health, he expected a speedy answer, days, at most. This is what he told us last week.
ALAN LEVINE, SECRETARY, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS: You know, that's one of the reasons why we have put a deadline on the letter. If you notice the last sentence, we said, we need an answer by next week.
KAYE (on camera): But that deadline has come and gone, no answer from BP. And this was the state's second request for $10 million. BP responded to the first request, saying it -- quote -- "looked forward to continuing the dialogue." But the oil giant provided nothing.
(voice-over): The money, if it ever comes, would be used to treat those experiencing emotional trauma since the spill, fishermen like Luis Lund Jr. (ph), who can no longer fish to support his family because of the oil. His wife says he's full of rage.
RACHEL MORRIS, WIFE OF FISHERMAN: He wants to go on a rampage, screaming, punching, hitting, whatever he can do. And he can't. And he just can't get it out. It's just stuck in there, bubbling.
KAYE (on camera): How is that anger coming out?
MORRIS: It comes out -- he started drinking. He's smoking more, when we're trying to quit. He takes it out on us just in general. We do something that kind of would make him upset, and all the other stresses kind of pile on top of that, so he blows up.
KAYE (voice-over): Rachel Morris wants to help. She is learning how to navigate the emotional pressures at group wellness classes like this one at the St. Bernard Project. Other Gulf wives are here, too. Same problem.
YVONNE LANDRY, WIFE OF FISHERMAN: I have got one at home right now that needs to vent, you know, but won't. He will fuss at me or he will fuss at him and -- or the kids.
KAYE: Among other things, the group is taught breathing exercises to control stress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Push the air out to release all that negativity from your body.
KAYE: The Project's CEO, Zack Rosenburg, says, if BP doesn't pay, this lifeline will end for many. They won't have enough money to treat everyone. Even now, it's far from ideal. Those anxious, angry or depressed already have to wait eight weeks just to get in for a first appointment.
(on camera): Is this wellness group an example of why you need more money from BP?
ZACK ROSENBURG, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, ST. BERNARD PROJECT: If we are able to get more dollars in the door, we're going to start a peer- to-peer counseling program. We're going to add evening and weekend hours to our center, and we're going to open a satellite office down the road, because the need is clearly there.
KAYE (voice-over): We tried to contact BP numerous times to ask why it hasn't even responded to the state's latest request. No one at BP responded to us either.
(on camera): Does it surprise you that BP hasn't come forward with the $10 million to help people like your family that the state has requested?
MORRIS: No. I don't think -- it's not surprising to me. I don't think that they're doing nearly what they could do. I don't expect to see the $10 million because they don't care about us. We're an inconvenience to them. KAYE (voice-over): An inconvenience and perhaps just another expense in BP's $3 billion tab in the Gulf.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New Orleans.
GUPTA: And next on 360: testing the food from the Gulf. Is it safe? We will take you inside a government lab for a closer look. And, also, tonight, oil deposits -- what is scooped up to the Gulf, could that be coming to a landfill near you? Our "Keeping Them Honest" report, that's ahead.
GUPTA: The FDA tells us the fish and seafood harvested from unaffected waters in the Gulf are safe to eat. And the government also says that, to their knowledge, no contaminated products have made it to the market and to your plate -- two big promises. But how can we be sure?
To find out, I spent some time in an FDA lab where seafood taken from the Gulf is tested.
GUPTA (voice-over): Behind these doors, huge decisions are being made. Tests that determine whether or not the seafood in the Gulf is safe for us to eat. It looks like a scene straight out of a crime scene show.
(on camera): What you're looking at is a chain of custody record. That's because the fish that are being tested are literally treated like evidence. You've got to keep track of where it's been and who's handled it.
This is the testing facility. These are fish over here that are being tested, trying to figure out if, indeed, they are safe. Aluminum foil, special instruments, workers wearing gloves. They want to be very careful not to contaminate any of these fish, to make sure their records and their testing is as accurate as possible.
(voice-over): Thousands of fish being tested since April 28. That's just a week after the oil spill. They're being brought here in these huge ice units.
(on camera): We're here in Mississippi. Got a lot of fish behind us here.
JOHN STEIN, NOAA: Yes.
GUPTA: Bagged and tagged.
STEIN: Bagged and tagged, yes, they are. Very important so we know where they come from.
GUPTA: This is part of the process?
STEIN: Part of the process.
GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. John Stein, he's head of NOAA's seafood safety testing program.
(on camera): You go around the country, John, and you talk to people about what's happening here in the Gulf. The question always comes up, is the seafood safe?
GUPTA: And you say?
STEIN: Yes. We have an extensive program in place. It's a cooperative program between NOAA, FDA, EPA, and the Gulf states. And we're all working together to ensure that seafood is safe.
GUPTA (voice-over): But no one can be sure. And that's because we don't know exactly how much oil is leaking and more importantly, exactly where it is going.
(on camera): We've been talking to a lot of scientists, and you may know some of this. But they say, you know, the oil, as it starts to break up, you get all these various compounds that are not oil, so to speak, anymore. They're just these aromatic hydrocarbons, these volatile compounds. And they can go all over the place.
And that's what I think makes it is so difficult. How do you know if it's kind of oil, per se, but still some of the toxic elements land further away in an area that doesn't have oil?
STEIN: Correct. So that's why this testing program deals both with the sensory, to be able to detect oil and those aromatic hydrocarbons and then the analytical chemistry to also detect those aromatic hydrocarbons.
GUPTA: So to give you a little peek behind the curtain into this room, which is where sensory testing takes place. They have, typically, testers all up and down here. One of the first things you do is actually, this is uncooked fish. You just get a little smell of this. And then determine what you think the score is, what the likelihood that this is contaminated.
(voice-over): The next step, the taste test. (on camera): So you've got your nose. You've got your sense of smell working and now is the sense of taste. They pointed out to me that, even if this was contaminated, eating a small amount like this would not be problematic. You eat this. You don't swallow it, they say, because you don't want to ruin the rest of your testing. So here it goes.
Tastes pretty good, as well. I'm not an expert. That seems pretty good to me.
(voice-over): The researchers say a contaminated fish has a distinct taste; it's unmistakable. But if all this sounds subjective to you, you're right. That's why there are 10 different testers, all of them hidden from each other. They can't even see each other's reaction while they're testing.
But all of these tests are only for oil compounds. Turns out no one is testing these fish for possible contamination by that controversial dispersant, Corexit.
(on camera): Diepoxybutane, I believe it's called, one of the -- one of the particularly toxic chemicals in the Corexit. You can't -- there's no chemical test being done right now?
STEIN: There's no -- there's not a chemical test for that right now.
GUPTA (voice-over): What? No test? So how can the guarantee of safety be complete? We decided to dig deeper to clarify.
NOAA says, in an abundance of caution, they're currently developing a chemical test for dispersants. It just isn't ready yet. And it can't come soon enough for the millions of people who want to eat these fish and those who make a living catching them.
(on camera): Based on everything you know now, how long is it going to stay closed?
STEIN: It's going to stay closed until the well, the oil leak is stopped. Once the oil leak is stopped, then we'll have a very aggressive and very comprehensive survey of that area for reopening.
GUPTA: Now, the spill is in the Gulf, but the oil is turning up in some pretty unlikely places, including one local community's landfill. They don't want it, but BP is putting it there anyway.
Here again is Randi Kaye, "Keeping Them Honest."
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you have been wondering where all that scooped-up onshore oil ends up, here is your answer. This is Mississippi's Pecan Grove landfill.
What cleanup crews gather onshore, tar balls, oiled sand and vegetation, is hauled away and buried here. That even includes the cleanup crews' gloves, suits, shovels, and rakes, anything that's touched oil. It's one of nine landfills BP has cut deals with across the Gulf to dump all this stuff.
So, that must mean the communities are OK with it, too, right? Wrong. Connie Rockco is the president of the Board of Supervisors in Harrison County, Mississippi where the Pecan Grove landfill is located.
(on camera): How do you feel about this oily mixture coming off the beaches and ending up in your landfill?
CONNIE ROCKCO, BOARD OF SUPERVISORS PRESIDENT, HARRISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI: Well, we're tired of being dumped on. We don't want it. It's valuable landfill space, and it's hazardous to our citizens. Take your waste somewhere else, or please find an alternative.
KAYE (voice-over): Rockco says the county board passed a resolution not to accept any BP waste in this community. But that didn't matter. That's because Waste Management, which owns the landfill, doesn't have to listen to what the county board says. It answers to the state.
So, it signed a contract with BP and started dumping the oily waste right where Rockco and plenty of others feared they would.
(on camera): What concerns you most about this oil and the tar balls and this whole mixture going to your landfill?
ROCKCO: The long-term effects that we will have to endure if it, in fact -- if, in fact, we do find that it is dangerous.
KAYE: Like if it gets into your water, or...
ROCKCO: Into the water table, absolutely.
KAYE (voice-over): "Keeping Them Honest," we asked BP why it's disposing of spill waste in a county that says it's pleaded with them not to. BP wouldn't comment.
So, we asked Waste Management's Ken Haldin to take us inside the landfill so we could see for ourselves why BP, the EPA and Waste Management all say it's safe.
(on camera): There are many worried that whatever is going into this landfill from the oil spill is going to end up in their water system and make the community sick.
KEN HALDIN, SPOKESPERSON, WASTE MANAGEMENT: Right. It's an understandable concern because there's a lack of awareness about what an engineered landfill is.
KAYE (voice-over): Haldin says this is a nonhazardous waste site. He says there wouldn't be any liquid oil coming here, just solid oil waste. Before it's dumped, it's stored in these huge containers and analyzed.
In the last 24 hours, Haldin says they dropped more than 150 tons of BP waste into this landfill -- 150 tons.
(on camera): If the county didn't want it, why is it here?
HALDIN: And that's something they have certainly appealed to the state about and to others about. And we understand that. And we are going to do our utmost to be sure that they are familiar with what is going on here. KAYE: Haldin says this landfill has a liner that runs underneath the entire site. In fact, it's under my feet where I'm walking right now. He says that liner is supposed to contain everything that's dumped here at the landfill and protect it from any leaks.
He also says the groundwater and the air is monitored, and, if anything goes wrong, they would know it.
(voice-over): The EPA told us, BP, along with the EPA, are also sampling the landfills regularly to make sure they are safe. The agency also said it directed BP to keep its waste disposal operations -- quote -- "fully transparent."
BP must post information about the disposal of all collected waste on their Web site, along with any community complaints.
Connie Rockco is first in line.
ROCKCO: If it's not hazardous, why would someone be out with Tyvek suits and rubber gloves and that sort of thing picking it up and taking it to the landfill?
Randi Kaye, CNN, Pass Christian, Mississippi.
GUPTA: And coming up: gauging the spill. Scientists say they can measure it, but claim BP is giving them the runaround. We will talk about that with Congressman Ed Markey.
And also tonight: spin cycle. The White House is under fire for downplaying the disaster. We will have that story just ahead.
GUPTA: We'll have much more on the Gulf just ahead, but first, this "360 News & Business Bulletin."
With the United States-Russia spy swap now complete, a White House official said the idea started here. President Obama's national security team reportedly started talking about the swap even before the ten Russian agents were arrested. A plane carrying four convicted western spies arrived in Washington this afternoon, just hours after the ten Russians landed in Moscow.
And the federal ban on same-sex marriage has been overturned in Massachusetts. A judge in Boston found the ban unconstitutional, saying it interferes it state's right to define marriage.
Some good news for Haiti. A report out today shows the United States relief organizations have raised $1.3 billion since the devastating earthquake six months ago. The question is, is the aid reaching those who need it most? Anderson and I return to Haiti next week to see if all those promises to help are being kept.
We'll have much more from the Gulf. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GUPTA: BP continues to say there's no way to measure the exact amount of oil pouring into the sea. Their estimates began with just 1,000 barrels a day. Some say it's now as high as 100,000 barrels, maybe more.
A group of scientists led by Ira Leifer (ph) say they have a way to directly analyze the flow, and they can do it at the oil spill site. Their plan is called Deep Spill Two.
Now Congressman Ed Markey urged BP to consider it in a letter he sent back on June 10. So far, BP has not replayed. So I spoke to Representative Markey just a little bit earlier.
GUPTA: Congressman Markey, you wrote a letter back on June 10 requesting specifically their support and funding for Deep Spill Two. This is the study. First of all, has BP responded to your letter?
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: BP has yet to respond to my letter. I have not heard back from them yet.
GUPTA: Well, as a starting point, Congressman, I mean, given the enormity of what we're talking about here and the impact, really, across the entire country, why do we need BP's permission? I mean, why doesn't the government, for example, foot the around $8.4 million bill -- I think that's how much it costs -- and let these scientists get to work to answer some of the questions that you're raising?
MARKEY: Well, I think that BP should pay for it. I think that "BP" should stand for "bills paid." And this is certainly something that BP should pay for.
I think it makes a lot of sense for this experiment to take place, especially the use of fluorescent dye in order to measure accurately how much oil and natural gas is coming out of this pipe. And -- and I think if it does require the federal government to pay for it, they should just put it on BP's bill. Because ultimately, BP doesn't want to know the answer to the question, because they have to pay a fine per barrel of oil. And if it's gross negligence, at $4,300 a barrel, the difference of 10,000 barrels per day for 77 days is $3 billion.
So perhaps we shouldn't be waiting for BP to be spending that money, because they don't want to know how big their liability is. They want to lower their liability.
And, at the same time, the federal government, on behalf of the American people, have a stake in knowing just how big this problem is, so that the fine on BP reflects a punishment that is equal to the harm which they have inflicted on the people in the Gulf.
GUPTA: And, again, they have not responded to your letter. But you're convinced that this is -- this is complete obstructionism, that they simply do not want to know the answers that a lot of people want to know.
MARKEY: Well, right now, people say, BP says, experts say, that the flow could be 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day. Well, if it's 45,000 barrels a day, that's an extra $3 billion in fines. If it's 55,000 barrels, that's an extra $6 billion in fines.
So, yes, there is a disconnect between the amount of scientific work that has to be conducted and finished, and BP's interest in actually conducting that research.
GUPTA: As things stand now, Congressman, I mean, I'm down here looking at the health effects. Do we know if there are any long-term health effects of this oil spill? Do we know what they are and when they're going to start to happen?
MARKEY: Well, at the hearing in our committee, I demanded from Tony Hayward that he make accessible to the National Institutes of Occupational Health and Safety all of the information about all of the workers down there in the Gulf of Mexico.
And up until then, they had been equivocating. Up until then, they had refused to do it. But the next day, they began to turn over all of this information. And there was, as a result, an increase in the transparency.
But I think we're going to have to monitor this situation on an ongoing basis, because nobody knows better than you, there are physical harms here, but there are also mental health consequences to -- to this event, because people's lives are being affected in a way that could change the whole course of families' histories.
GUPTA: Congressman Ed Markey, thanks so much for joining us.
MARKEY: Thank you for having me.
GUPTA: Up next, the White House spin on the disaster. What we discovered online. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And later, a 360 exclusive: legendary singer Jimmy Buffett, born and raised along the Gulf, speaks to Anderson about the disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY BUFFETT, SINGER: People are mad about this. And everybody understands that. And I think channeling that anger to something positive is the thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: You know, 360 has been on the ground here for weeks, reporting on the spill, digging for answers, determined to give you the truth. It hasn't been easy. There's been a lack of transparency from BP and from Washington. We've also seen the PR campaign pushed by BP. And now it's the White House that's accused of spinning the story.
We asked Tom Foreman to look into it. Here's what he found out.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The good news about the White House's new Web site, RestoreTheGulf.gov, is that it does contain some useful information. For example, you can figure out how to file a claim for damages if you need to. You can punch up a series of maps, which will show you how far the spill has extended, where fishing has been closed off, various beaches that have been soiled.
The bad news is all the things, though, that it does not tell you or at least buried somewhere in the information. How much oil has been spilled? How many jobs lost? How many reports of illness have there been from the people doing the cleanup? You just can't tell here. You have to dig a long time to find even hints about it.
What if you want to know how many birds have been killed in all of this? Well, you can find a nice feature here about some pelicans that they caught and cleaned up and set free, but you can't get a direct answer to that question.
What if you're worried about the odors along the coast down there, if you're worried that they might make you sick? Again, it's very hard to find any definitive information here that can help you make judgments about that.
Over and over again, what you see plenty of, though, is the White House talking point, that they keep saying the government has responded competently and early to all of this. They've been doing a great job all along. That's really the message they're reinforcing. And in that way, it seems a lot like those BP commercials we've been watching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're replacing the lost income for fishermen and businessmen and others who aren't able to work until the spill is cleaned up. Our claims line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
FOREMAN: On the White House Web site, you can find barely a word about the 11 men killed when this thing initially blew up, about the possibility of any criminal charges against BP for what they did.
"Keeping Them Honest," Sanjay, this was billed by the White House as a comprehensive site for all the information about the Gulf oil spill. And the simple truth is, a lot seems to be missing.
GUPTA: Thank you, Tom.
And a lot of people here are angry at the government and at BP. I spoke with some of them earlier. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GUPTA: Lots of policy decisions in Washington regarding the fate of the Gulf. I mean, money being spent, cleanup efforts. We are here. You live here; this is your world. What should people in Washington who are making these decisions know about what's happening here?
DON BESHEL, RESIDENT: I don't think that there's an authority that's -- that's telling everybody what to do. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. You have people from another parish coming in over here, 20 miles away, trying to boom over here. Local people are not working.
They should be some kind of logistical support from the government to tell BP where to go, what to do, how to do these things. Because, I look at it -- and you see people booming where they're not supposed to boom. I see people that aren't doing the job they're supposed to do. It's about hiring people. It's not about stopping the oil up or sopping the oil up. I see that every day. Every day.
And it's frustrating to know we had a blow here for four days. We knew the oil was coming in. We knew it was going to happen. And, of course, the Coast Guard had to shut them down because of high water. We're located on inland waters. They could have done something, just tried something, double boom or do something. But nothing was done. It's in here now. We're all frustrated. We're going to lose our livelihood.
GUPTA: Give me an idea. I don't think people know how much money typically would you make in a month or a week?
BYRON ENCLADE, OYSTERMAN: My company is doing this time of the year with my trucks and both of boats working, we would be grossing $5,000, $6,000 easy.
GUPTA: A month?
B. ENCLADE: No, a day.
GUPTA: A day?
B. ENCLADE: A day. A day.
GUPTA: And now?
B. ENCLADE: Nothing, nothing. We get nickelled and dimed to death by BP with this $5,000, and $5,000 don't even put fuel in these boats.
GUPTA: So tell me about this. You were making up $5,000 to $6,000 a day gross? And now how much...
B. ENCLADE: They gave me a $5,000 check for a month. They gave me a second check for a month. That didn't even pay the bills that I'd incurred 30 days before. GUPTA: I've heard this a couple of times now. Contractors, people from the outside coming in, doing this work, and you feel taking money that you should be getting.
B. ENCLADE: Absolutely. And now you've got a congressman from Texas saying we're holding BP hostage here. No, BP wanted to play politics. They brought it on themselves. We told them, we had the expertise in here, we had the education in here now. And we had the ability to handle these jobs ourselves because they wanted to play public relations.
GUPTA: If you -- if you wanted to leave -- just leave this place, could you do it?
STANLEY ENCLADE, OYSTERMAN: No, I can't.
B. ENCLADE: I can't.
S. ENCLADE: Not after Katrina. You know, I just can't cope. I can't deal with it.
GUPTA: The type of work that you do...
S. ENCLADE: We're 50 years old, you know. I mean, where am I going to do this at? You know, I'm born and raised here. We all of us -- look around us. We're third generation of people born and raised together. You can't just walk away and go and live somewhere else and be happy. We might not get along with one another. But like I said, it's our third generation.
GUPTA: Communities have a hard time rebounding stuff like this. I mean, you saw what happened, or heard about what happened after the disaster in Alaska. Communities start to fall apart. There's an increase in alcoholism, an increase in domestic violence. There's an increase in neighbors not taking care of each other. Have you seen that? Are you worried about that?
BESHEL: I think so. We know that the sheriff's department, there's a -- there is an uptick in -- in violence as far as domestic violence.
GUPTA: You've already seen that?
BESHEL: Already seen it. They already know it. They're trying to set up places to try and take care of that.
There's a strain on the community of the future. There's a strain on the community of the present, and not having the money to pay -- pay for the bills they have.
GUPTA: Next, Jimmy Buffett, talking to Anderson about the spill and the strength of the people here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUFFETT: Tough as it is, somehow people have survived. I've seen it through my generations of being here, and people who have been wiped out and in my own family coming back and rebuilding and going on with their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: Jimmy Buffett, he's one of the most successful singer- songwriters in the country. He was born and raised along the Gulf coast. Like a lot of people, he has plenty to say about this massive BP spill. Anderson caught up with Jimmy Buffett for the "Big 360 Interview." Take a look.
COOPER: One of the things we've been trying to get across every night is that, you know, the -- most of the beaches in Florida are open. The Gulf is open for business.
BUFFETT: It's true. Because there's an overreaction. People that I knew -- I was on tour at the time. I was up in the Midwest, and people were going, well -- their impressions were that there was a dark, sludgy beach in the entire Gulf of Mexico, with this dark oil pit. And that was their perception, and then business started dropping off tremendously.
COOPER: Even in New Orleans. People are canceling hotel reservations, which is crazy, because the oil's not in New Orleans.
BUFFETT: Yes. You know, well, we're kind of a 'fraidy-cat society these days. I mean, it's sad, because people are, you know -- and it's spontaneous, and then it gets viral on the Internet. And, as you've probably seen in doing this, that it's simply...
COOPER: I try not to read the Internet, by the way.
BUFFETT: Yes. I don't either. I go there looking for people doing things that I can help them do in the midst of this. And so that's kind of where I focus.
COOPER: Obviously, the moratorium is incredibly controversial. Do you support it?
BUFFETT: You know, I don't know. I mean, you know, you can say that, but then the economy's going to go to hell. You know, I mean, this is an oil-based economy. The thing that I want to do is look at -- I've got little projects going. I mean, I go -- that's a decision somebody else is going to have to make on a bigger level.
But we're doing things like, we've got a project; we're taking French fry oil from the Margarita restaurants and fueling shrimp boats on them. COOPER: Is that right?
BUFFETT: Yes. And so that's something that I can do.
BUFFETT: And we're doing it, and it's successful, and ironically, it comes at the time when people are going -- you know, to me, this thing hopefully will eventually get fixed. And then what are we going to do, just go back the way we were? Maybe this is a time that people thing to look at alternatives, though it is controversial.
There's as much oil in our lives, much more so than there is on the beach today. So what are we going to do about that? That's the question I ask myself, and -- and try to get answers, and try to, in small ways, go that way.
COOPER: Because that's the thing. You talk to shrimpers. You talk to oystermen in Louisiana, and they're afraid that a way of life is really threatened.
BUFFETT: I think that they're absolutely right about that. And that begs the big question to me is what else is out there? I mean, let's face it. When the automobile came along, there were a lot of people shoveling horse manure who were out of work. But they found out they could fix flat tires. You know?
And it's kind of like that. It's a simple statement. And a fisherman facing a way-of-life change doesn't want to hear that. But I think you've got to think in those terms, because if you've got the history, that's how things happen. And maybe this is the time where we go, "How much can really be -- how many jobs can be created and how much demand in our lives can we create from alternative energy sources?" And it then will filter down to a guy who's lost his shrimp boat or his living.
COOPER: So what's your message to people who haven't been down here, are maybe thinking about coming?
BUFFETT: It's interesting, going from -- I've been from one great disaster to another. I've been in Haiti for a while. And there you see the resilience. Here, there's an interesting thing, because so many people would love to come down and just pick this stuff up and take it off. But they're not sure if there's science involved. You know, there's health issues involved. So it builds the frustration a little.
People are mad about this, and everybody understands that. And I think channeling that anger to something positive is the thing to do. You know, I was just showing you this little application called Mogo (ph) where you can come out and actually take pictures on the beach of birds or oil spills and put up to...
COOPER: That what you just have on your...
BUFFETT: Yes, yes, I just found it. COOPER: So if you see tar balls, you take a picture of it?
BUFFETT: Yes. You can report in stuff. And I think that's amazing. I mean, that's a great use of technology to deal with something we should do something about.
COOPER: Because that's one of the things I think people get so frustrated about. They see this stuff on television. They want to do something.
COOPER: And I talk to volunteers who come down, but there's no place for them to volunteer. Because, you know, BP doesn't want them -- you know, they don't want people just randomly picking up oil, which is understandable.
BUFFETT: We have, you know -- we have -- we have funded some rescue boats for birds. You all ran -- you all ran a story on it.
COOPER: SWAT boats.
BUFFETT: And we ran into tremendous -- we have SWAT boats, you know. And here's, you know, a guy that came to me and said, "I just feel so angry about this. I want to do something." And they designed these shallow water boats that I thought they were wonderful.
So we funded the first couple. We were set to go. And then rumors started going that BP was controlling the cleanup; you couldn't get in. And this was on the Internet. And this -- people went crazy.
And we finally found out that there was a simple solution, and we found it. And they're working now. So we ran into those problems, too.
There's so much information, I think, it's like a traffic jam in Haiti. You know, I mean, there's so many people trying to do something about it. You get to that roundabout outside of the airport.
COOPER: You want to give up.
BUFFETT: You want to give up, you know?
COOPER: You want to abandon the vehicle.
BUFFETT: And if you can get your way through those traffic jams, you can find you can connect up with people. And I think that's the other thing, you know. It's frustrating, it is, because you've got a lot of people who would like to help, but figuring out where to go, and -- and getting through rumors and things, to where you can actually do something is difficult.
COOPER: But you think the way of life here, Margaritaville, the laid-back life, that can continue? That will survive. It does. BUFFETT: It always has. And as tough as it is, somehow people will survive. I've seen it in my generations of being here, and people who have been wiped out and in my own family coming back and rebuilding and going on with their lives.
GUPTA: Thanks for watching. And a reminder, as well, that Anderson and I are going to be in Haiti next week. It's been six months since the earthquake. We're going to be there to talk to the people to see what progress, if any, has been made. Have a good night.