IFAS News

University of Florida

Five years after oil spill, survey shows Gulf Coast residents are still impacted

Topic(s): Aquaculture, CALS, Disaster Preparedness, Environment, Families and Consumers, Pollution
Families, fishermen and birds enjoying sunset at the beach in Naples, Florida.  Shore, coast, sundown, fishing, leisure and recreation.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Photo Caption Below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Five years after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 men and sent at least 210 million gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, people along the coast are gathering for a three-city regional forum Thursday. Participants will discuss the spill’s effects on their communities, its lasting impacts and how to prepare for another major disaster.

The regional forum will include the release of results from a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences survey of Gulf Coast residents from Baldwin County, Ala., to Cedar Key, Fla. The survey looked at coastal residents’ opinions of the status of their recovery five years after the DWH disaster.

Findings indicated that respondents’ levels of satisfaction were lower five years after the spill than before it in several topic areas. This included levels of satisfaction with their community’s economy, community leadership and programs, local media, Gulf coast seafood industry, faith-based organizations and emergency response efforts.

“I was particularly struck with respondents’ levels of satisfaction with their community’s economy,” said Tracy Irani, a professor and chair of the Family, Youth, and Community Sciences department. “More than 34 percent of residents said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their community’s economy after the DWH oil spill, while only 15.6 percent felt that way before the oil spill.”

Other key findings include:

  • 28.7 percent of residents indicated that they were personally affected by the DWH oil spill.
  • 39.4 percent of residents were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with local community leaders after the DWH oil spill.
  • 34.9 percent disagree or strongly disagree that their community’s economy has fully recovered from the DWH oil spill.
  • 42 percent disagree or strongly disagree that their community is stronger after the DWH oil than it was before.
  • 41.1 percent of residents were satisfied or very satisfied with the Gulf Coast seafood industry after the DWH oil spill. 50.4 percent agree or strongly agree that they trust Gulf Coast seafood is currently safe to eat.
  • 66.7 percent of residents were satisfied or very satisfied with emergency response in their communities following the DWH oil spill.
  • 31.6 percent of residents indicated that they agree or strongly agree that community programs established following the oil spills continue to provide benefits.
  • 73.7 percent of residents indicated that volunteer programs are moderately or very important in response to an environmental disaster or crisis.
  • 72 percent of residents indicated that the local media providing up-to-date and factual information is moderately or very important following an environmental disaster.
  • 53.4 percent of residents indicated that mental health services are moderately or very important following an environmental disaster.

The telephone survey was done in January, 2015. The target population included adult residents, age 18 or older, in all zip codes along the Gulf Coast from Baldwin County, Ala., to Levy County, Fla. A total of 448 Gulf Coast residents participated in the survey. To ensure the respondents were representative of the Florida and southern Alabama population according to the 2010 U.S. Census, the data were weighted, a common practice used in public opinion research with non-probability samples to make population estimates.

A link to the full study can be found here: http://healthygulfcoast.org/

Link here to a video regarding the survey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2vlS1TjFf8&feature=youtu.be

The forum will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.in three locations:

University of Florida, Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI)
2055 Mowry Road
Room 150- First Floor
Gainesville, Fla.

352-273-7526

Apalachicola Community Center

1 Bay Avenue

Apalachicola, Fla.

(850) 653-9319

Langley Bell 4-H Center

3730 Stefani Road
Cantonment, Fla.

(850) 941-6002

EDITOR’S NOTE: UF/IFAS and Florida Sea Grant also have several sources available for reporters covering the fifth anniversary of the Gulf oil spill.

The sources listed below include UF/IFAS and Florida Sea Grant personnel who worked in collaboration with UF/IFAS and Florida Sea Grant. They are prepared to discuss their own experiences with the oil spill, notably the help that UF/IFAS provided to individuals and communities in Florida’s Panhandle.

Brunie Emmanuel — 850-261-1251 or univisgrp@aol.com.  When the oil spill began, Emmanuel was employed as the head of a non-profit agency serving the homeless in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. His activities during the oil spill were numerous. Example: While managing $9 million in oil-spill relief grants, Emmanuel became a board member for Healthy Gulf, Healthy Communities, a five-year funded project based at UF/IFAS assessing and addressing community needs in areas affected by the oil spill. Emmanuel worked with UF/IFAS faculty members Tracy Irani (see below) and Angie Lindsey (see below) to provide information about homeless residents of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties and how the oil spill impacted them.

Daniel Hahn — 850-983-4606 or danielh@santarosa.fl.gov.  When the oil spill began, Hahn was employed as plans chief for the Santa Rosa County Division of Emergency Management. His activities during the oil spill were numerous. Example: Hahn and Chris Verlinde, a Santa Rosa County Sea Grant Extension agent (see below), established an information station on Navarre Beach, providing accurate information on the oil spill, current water conditions, wildlife and more.

Tracy Irani – 352-273-3446 or irani@ufl.edu. When the oil spill began, Irani was employed as a professor in the UF/IFAS Department of Agricultural Education and Communication. Shortly after the disaster began, Irani became involved in Healthy Gulf Healthy Communities, a five-year, NIH funded grant project that involves UF and several other universities, and encompasses community outreach, seafood safety assurance, and research on the environmental, economic and human health impacts of the Gulf oil spill in Eastern Gulf Coast communities.

Angie Lindsey – 904-509-3518 or ablindsey@ufl.edu.  When the oil spill began, Lindsey was a UF/IFAS doctoral student in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication. She worked extensively with Tracy Irani (see above) on the Healthy Gulf Healthy Communities project.

Thomas Ruppert – 352-213-6777 or truppert@ufl.edu. When the oil spill began, Ruppert had just been hired as a coastal planning specialist for Florida Sea Grant, based at the main UF campus in Gainesville. An attorney, Ruppert worked with several Sea Grant colleagues to provide Gulf Coast residents with accurate information regarding the process for filing legal claims for damages related to the oil spill.

Carrie Stevenson – 850-475-5230 or ctsteven@ufl.edu. When the oil spill began, Stevenson was employed as an Extension agent in Escambia County. Her activities during the oil spill were numerous. Two examples: She helped organize a public forum, “Science of the Spill,” to provide residents with accurate science-based information about the oil spill and its possible consequences; and she worked a telephone hotline at the Escambia County emergency operations center, taking calls on a vast range of topics related to the oil spill.

Chris Verlinde – 850-623-3868 or chrismv@ufl.edu. When the oil spill began, Verlinde was employed as a Florida Sea Grant Extension agent in Santa Rosa County. Her activities during the oil spill were numerousExample: Verlinde worked with Daniel Hahn (see above) to establish an information station on Navarre Beach, providing accurate information on the oil spill, current water conditions, wildlife and more.

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, k.moore.wilmoth@ufl.edu

Source: Tracy Irani, 352-273-3446, irani@ufl.edu

Photo Caption: Families, fishermen and birds enjoying sunset at the beach in Naples, Florida. Shore, coast, sundown, fishing, leisure and recreation. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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