The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ efforts to rescue oiled birds continue today at the site of an oil spill near Alliance Refinery at Belle Chasse along the Mississippi River.
The spill occurred during Hurricane Ida’s onslaught of the area on Aug. 29; however, the first cases of oiled birds were documented on Sept. 5. The oiled birds were observed within heavy pockets of crude oil throughout the facility as well as nearby flooded fields and retention ponds.
LDWF is working in partnership with the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to save the birds. Alliance Refinery, which is owned by Phillips 66, is assisting in the recovery as well.
The number of oiled birds observed onsite have increased from the 50 described in initial reporting to more than 100.
“At last check, we have brought in close to 25 oiled birds, and there have obviously been some dead birds which were collected as evidence as well,” said Jon Wiebe, an LDWF biologist.
Efforts to capture birds impacted by the spill are ongoing. Once captured, oiled birds are sent to a rehabilitation center to receive care.
“We have clean-up that is ongoing, but the longer that the oil is available in the environment, the more chance there is for exposure, and with more chance of exposure, there is more chance for injury, leading all the way up to mortality,” Wiebe said. “One limiting factor is that there are a number of oil spills that are occurring throughout the state, so companies that are designated for doing that type of work are spread very thin.”
It may take weeks before the effort to save the birds and other animals is completed. Black-bellied whistling ducks, blue-winged teal and a variety of egret species were among the birds found. Alligators, river otters, and nutria were also affected by the spill.