Two years after the oil spill, Gulf Coast residents dealing with legal and health issues

Mississippi Public Broadcasting


It was two years ago today the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 people and spewing more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Now, a federal judge in New Orleans is considering a proposed settlement that will require BP to pay nearly eight-Billion-dollars. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports thousands of Mississippi residents are eligible for the settlement that will cover loss of income and medical claims.

In her front yard, with birds, shade trees and the scent of jasmine, Lorrie Williams says the BP oil spill nearly caused her to lose her Ocean Springs home, located two blocks from the Mississippi Sound.

She says she had to give up the family’s crabbing business because she’s been sick since she inhaled fumes from the oil and dispersant.

“They did an x-ray and the doctor came in and he said it was not pneunomia, that I had a mass in a very unusual spot in my lung and that my lung had collapsed and my liver was slightly inflamed.”

Williams says she’s planning to file a medical claim under the proposed BP settlement, because before the oil spill, she was healthy enough to work on the boat and help haul more than 1,000 pounds of crabs a day.

She says her 12-year-old son and two-year old granddaughter have had all kinds of unusual medical problems since the oil spill.

“If I’m not here, I want to know that somebody’s going to pay for what they’ve done to my children. That there is going to be medical care or Social Security or something, to where if one of those children end up disabled for the rest of their life, that somebody’s going to be held accountable for this.”

The proposed settlement includes a Gulf Coast health program and medical examinations for 21 years.

Stephen Teague is an attorney with the Mississippi Center for Justice in Biloxi, which represents about 700 people with BP claims. He says the proposal includes compensation for emotional distress.

“The documentation requirements are going to be less stringent in this proposed settlement. There will be more wiggle room for people to kind of prove their cases in other ways.”

The proposed settlement is being considered by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans. It is not known yet when the judge will make a decision.