Gulf spill a boon for cleanup crews

06/17/2010 12:00 AM |

Workers for Calverton-based Miller Environmental Group ready oil containment booms in Florida this week to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The group has hired nearly 1,000 people since beginning work on the spill last month.

Nearly 1,000 people are now employed by the Calverton-based Miller Environmental Group to help clean up the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

About 100 New York-based workers for the company were deployed over a month ago, weeks after the April 20 explosion of an offshore drilling rig killed 11 people and caused thousands of gallons of crude oil to begin gushing into the Gulf. The oil continues to gush and the spill has since affected miles of beaches in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

The company’s CEO, Mark Miller, who spends his weeks working in Pascagoula, Miss., and returns to Calverton for weekends, said that his crews are no longer primarily New York-based workers but local people in the Gulf area who are directly impacted by the spill.

“It’s definitely a dynamic situation,” Mr. Miller said, shortly after arriving in New York on Friday. “We’ve been very good at team-building and running this thing like a big family. We’ve been able to keep up morale, and we’re very proud of what we’re doing.”

Their goal is to contain and collect oil at sea and on the shoreline. Mr. Miller said his crews are working around the clock on the nearly 70 vessels the company has in the Gulf, dealing with oil that has spread for hundreds of miles.

“The majority of the workforce is now recovering oil offshore near wetlands,” he said. “Last month, it was kind of a standby thing, but now we know we’re in it for the long term.”

His company has also created a shoreline cleanup training program at a massive staging area on the property of an old car dealership, where a mock beach is set up for training workers. Instead of using hotels, non-local workers with Miller Environmental are now taking over condo and apartment complexes for housing.

Mr. Miller said that media reports of “everyone going crazy on the marshes of Louisiana” distort the generally calm and cooperative mood he’s experienced during the cleanup effort. Tourists are still going to beaches that haven’t been affected and probably won’t be by the oil spill, he added.

“But, of course, there is a real concern among the locals about how the spill will affect their livelihoods,” he said. “It’s a very scary thing. Which is why we’re working as hard as we are and interacting with the community as much as we can.

“The other day we bought all of the outboard motors from a local boat shop and 500 rakes from the hardware store,” he continued. That economic boost “is a big help to these guys, especially when you’re the only customer they see in a day. The spill has created a difficult position for local businesses to be in, and we’re doing as much as possible to have a positive impact right now.”

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