After assuring local residents that all jobs related to the oil spill cleanup effort would remain local, many were shocked Wednesday as dozens of what appeared to be illegal aliens combed Navarre Beach for trash.
CCI Environmental, a North Carolina-based environmental waste cleanup company, was sub-contracted through Eagle SWS, another environmental waste cleanup company based in Panama City - BP's primary vending contractor - to conduct sweeps of the beach for trash before the affects of oil washed ashore.
When asked who employed them, one worker pointed toward the beach, directing Navarre Press to talk to the "American." Their supervisor declined to answer if the workers had work visas, and instead, referred all inquiries to a CCI office in North Carolina.
The order for "certified environmental cleanup technicians" - as they were called - came from BP's joint command center based in Mobile, said Hope Lanier, director of government and public affairs in the Southeast region for BP.
"We understand that community residents conducted a cleanup over the weekend, but officials in joint command said it needed to be done," Lanier said.
Despite a promise made to keep all cleanup jobs local during a community meeting with BP officials this past Monday, the reason Wednesday's opportunities were not opened up to residents was because they lacked specific training, Lanier said.
"Each individual had undergone at least 20 hours of hazardous waste operation emergency response training," said Lanier, who was unspecific about the location and conductor of the training. "We had requested that training be made available to locals, but that request was denied."
Lanier said that all workers held documented I-9 forms, enabling them to work legally in the United States.
"People that I know could have used a job like that," said Dorothy Slye, owner/broker of ERA Navarre Beach Agency, which rents units on Navarre Beach. "If (BP) can't hold their promise about this little thing, what assurance is that that I'm going to be honored on my claims of lost income?"
For more on this story, see the May 13 issue of the Navarre Press or subscribe online.