United Way urges registration for oil spill response cleanup

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY —  United Way of Indian River County is urging all Indian River County residents interested in volunteering in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to register with the United Way. Additionally, United Way is currently collecting information on pre-spill Beach Cleanups that may be happening along the Treasure Coast and is urging interested individuals and groups to coordinate cleanup activities by registering with the United Way.  Individuals and groups can call Eve Ballance at the United Way at 567-8900, ext 20.  The United Way is working in conjunction with Volunteer Florida (www.VolunteerFlorida.org) — the organization that is responsible for coordinating volunteer centers throughout the state of Florida.

Volunteer Florida serves as a clearinghouse for updated disaster information.

This week there have been 1,400 volunteers serving over 5,000 hours in beach and marsh cleanup efforts. (Volunteers do not handle the actual oil spill or contaminated wildlife, but may assist in coastal cleanup efforts.)  The complex nature of oil cleanup, coupled with health and safety concerns, limits the role of volunteers. Volunteers will not engage in any activity directly contacting oil-contaminated materials.  All oil-contaminated materials will be handled by trained, paid workers and not by volunteers. These trained paid workers include Paraprofessionals who are BP pre-approved contractors with previous permits, training and skills.

REMEMBER: it is imperative that all volunteers access opportunities through the proper channels: Training will be required to volunteer. Unannounced, untrained volunteers could create an additional burden on those coordinating response efforts. If oil reaches the Indian River coastline, it is expected to be highly weathered in the form of tar balls or mats. Although weathered material is not as toxic as fresh oil, it could still affect birds and other wildlife coming in contact with the material. If oil or tar balls wash up on area beaches, the materials would be removed by trained contractors, not volunteers.

Local organizations will be seeking volunteers for coastal watches, preventative beach cleanups and bird monitoring. Volunteers are needed as follows:

•         Volunteer for a Pre-Spill Beach Cleanup, call 567-8900, ext 20 for opportunities.

•         Become a Coast Watch volunteer. Learn more at www.volunteerfloridadisaster.org.

•         Report a change in Air Quality to http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/.

•         Individuals who live along or who are visiting coastal communities are encouraged to enjoy Florida’s coastal areas while watching for oiled wildlife and shoreline. Report oiled wildlife by calling 1-866-557-1401 and report oiled shoreline in Florida by calling #DEP from a cell phone or 1-877-2-SAVE-FL (1-877-272-8335).

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