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Activist speaks to community about oil spill

By BY ADRIANA ACOSTA
July 12, 2010 at 2:12 a.m.

Riki Ott speaks to Seadrift residents about memories of Exxon-Valdez and compares them to the current Deepwater Horizon incident.

When Riki Ott, who has a doctorate in marine toxicolgy, heard of the oil spill in the Gulf, she thought of the Exxon-Valdez spill 20 years ago in Alaska.

Not again, she thought.

"You guys in the Gulf will be in the same position we were in," she said.

On Monday, Ott spoke to residents in Seadrift concerned with the oil spill caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion happened April 20 and claimed the lives of 11 workers.

She said she remembers Exxon met with the Alaskan community she lived in to set their worries at ease.

"They said they wanted to make us whole and promised to help us financially," she said.

But that help never came.

That's why she is now on a mission to help those being affected on the Gulf coast.

"I want to help those who are in the same position now," she said.

The activist and marine toxicologist compared BP's attitude toward fishermen in the area, to the way Exxon treated the fishermen in Alaska.

After she heard of the oil rig explosion, she set off to New Orleans to get more information and to see for herself.

"The air smells like oil, and you can feel it in the back of your throat," she said after walking the shorelines around New Orleans.

She said children, the elderly and sea life would mostly be affected by the spill.

"Exxon told us not to worry, and that is what BP is telling fishermen, too," she said.

By not allowing media access to what is going on, people outside the affected areas will never fully know what is going on, she said.

People in the area have started to evacuate their homes, saying they are feeling sick and having respiratory problems, nose bleeds and burning eyes.

"All similar symptoms of the Exxon oil spill we had," she said.

"We are learning from our mistakes and should come up with plan B," she said. "It has been 20 years, and we fought and lost. Democracy has been hijacked by the oil corporations."

For people in Alaska, it was too little, too late, she said.

"Fishermen should act now and learn from the mistakes of 20 years ago," she added.

Fellow activist Diane Wilson said she was glad Ott made it to the area.

"Most people feel that there is a good chance the oil is going to make it here," she said.

People are fearful and have already seen oil hit the Texas coast, she noted.

So far, tar balls have been reported on Sargent and Crystal beaches, Wilson said.

Wilson said she was glad to have someone who has gone through the same experience, so those here have inside knowledge of what to expect.

People need to be educated at this point, she said.

"A lot of agencies and politicians are not coming forward with what's going on in the Gulf," she said.

"I am glad she is here," she said.

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