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Read This Before You Volunteer to Clean Up the BP Oil Disaster

Oil spill cleanups are regulated as hazardous waste cleanups because oil is, in fact, hazardous to health. Breathing oil fumes is extremely harmful...Unfortunately, Exxon called the short-term symptoms, "the Valdez Crud," and dismissed 6,722 cases of respiratory claims from cleanup workers as "colds or flu" using an exemption under OSHA’s hazardous waste cleanup reporting requirements. I know of many who have been disabled by their illnesses – or have died.

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Volunteers group

Volunteers wishing to help clean up the Louisiana coast can sign up here. The Louisiana Gulf Response is a coordinated effort between several nonprofit or governmental conservation and environmental organizations: The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, the National Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society and the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. Volunteers are needed to assist with a variety of needs — from oiled wildlife recovery to monitoring and photographing oil movement to providing a boat and driver for response activities. No specific training or experience is necessary, although you must be at least 18 years old to volunteer. Some tasks, such as food preparation, may require no training. Other tasks, such as washing oiled birds, may require specific certifications or skills. They encourage pre-veterinary students, veterinary technicians and those with HAZWOPER training to volunteer. Anyone with experience in dealing with wildlife handling, rehabilitation, or hazardous materials clean up is also strongly encouraged to register. Click here to sign up.

  • On June 4, the National Audubon Society created a National Oil Spill Response Center in Mississippi to serve as the hub for their recovery effort throughout the Gulf. They anticipate some 13,000 volunteers will be needed to do a coastal bird survey to collect data and photos on birds across the coast; assist with the transport of injured and oiled wildlife throughout the coastal region; to make nets and cages to assist professionals with oiled bird rescue efforts; and to man the Bird Hotline to handled calls related to bird sightings, etc. Go to to sign up and for more information.
  • The Audobon Society also seeks eBirders, people needed to survey local beaches and marshes for birds; your observations will help conservationists and researchers prioritize their efforts and asses the impacts of the spill. Click here for more information or to volunteer.
  • Louisiana's St. Tammany Humane Society seeks trained and untrained volunteers to help clean and rehab oiled pelicans. Call Catherine Wilbert at 985-674-6898 or click here.
  • The Sierra Club is mobilizing volunteers, and will connect you with opportunities to help. Please click here to sign up and for more information. The Sierra Club also has a Facebook page where you can find volunteer opportunities and updated spill information.
  • The Huffington Post has partnered with Meetup Everywhere, an application that allows you find others who also want to get involved and provides a forum for you to work together to help out with the oil spill. Click here to find others near you.
  • To help with wildlife rehabilitation efforts, check out the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which provides information on how to volunteer.
  • Human hair from beauty salons, animal fur from groomers and pantyhose are needed by San Fransisco-based Matter of Trust to make homemade booms to sop up the oil. The fur is stuffed into pantyhose, which give shape to the booms. Volunteers are needed at warehouses in different sites across the country to gather for “Boom-B-Qs” to learn how to make the booms.
  • Save Our Seabirds is a Sarasota, Florida-based bird rescue group that is looking for volunteers and support as its response team prepares to help oiled wildlife. Please click here to fill out their online form or call 941-388-3010.
  • Folks on the Florida Keys are mobilizing volunteers to fend oil off its shores. You can register here. About 800 boat captains have already offered the use of their vessels, and scores of people have signed up for classes in how to clean up oil that could begin showing up on the coast later this week.
  • The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service has already registered 4,500 volunteers it is actively deploying, and seeks more."Currently we have not seen impact on our actual beaches, but once oil reaches the Mississippi shoreline, we anticipate a need for additional volunteers to assist in the oil spill response," says Emily Wilemon, public affairs specialist for the commission. Volunteers are needed for duties including keeping watch for oiled wildlife and assisting nonprofits along the gulf coast impacted by the spill.

  • Another way to help Louisiana's wildlife is to volunteer through the Humane Society of Louisiana, which is coordinating volunteer efforts.
  • The Alabama Coastal Foundation, which works to improve and protect the quality of Alabama's coastal resources, is collecting contact information from volunteers for cleanup efforts along the Alabama coast if the spill reaches its shores. To register, and for the latest information on the spill, go to or call the Mobile-based nonprofit at 251-990-6002.
  • The Mobile Baykeeper is another Alabama group seeking volunteers in case the oil pushes into the state's shores. If you are interested in volunteering to reduce the impacts of the oil spill to the Bay, please call their office at 251-433-4229 or e-mail with your name, address, phone number, e-mail and available resources.

Other volunteer opportunities can be found at the Deepwater Horizon Response Request Line at 1-866-448-5816.

To check out state specific volunteer opportunities, go to:



For more information on volunteer opportunities as they arise, get on Twitter and search #oilspill. On Facebook, keep checking the Louisiana Shore Cleanup group, the Help Prepare for Florida Oil Spill in Panhandle group and Deepwater Horizon Oil Recovery Incident.


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Oil Clean-up Volunteer Opportunities

Updated: Tuesday, 08 Jun 2010, 11:19 AM CDT
Published : Friday, 30 Apr 2010, 10:19 AM CDT

  • Laura Rainey


To Register: To volunteer, go, and click on the dropdown menu, "claims/volunteers." Then click "volunteer info." 

Info: If you own a vessel and you would like to help with clean-up efforts, you must attend a class and fill out and sign a consent agreement. That agreement tells you when and how you could be activated, and what safety equipment you will need on your boat. it also tells you exactly what you would be doing to help. your name will be put in a BP computer database and you will be on stand-by to be called out if you are needed. 
  · Courses are held regularly. They last 3-4 hours. You may have to take a hazmat class in addition to the initial course. 
  · A BP recruiter will determine what type of area you will work in. 
  · You can have one boat, or multiple boats. You will be hired on a per boat basis. You will be paid for each boat you volunteer. 
  · There are a variety of clean-up options. 

Training Level Information: 
Level 1 (Basic HSE Training)
 – This person would be a volunteer who would never come in contact with spilled oil (helping with beach cleanup, for example) 

Level 2 (Contractors and Paraprofessionals)
 – This person would be a contractor who will be conducting work at the staging site Level 2 has a BP safety procedure that has to be instructed by someone who has been trained by BP or PEC Premier. 

Level 3 (Wildlife Recovery and Rehabilitation)
 – This person would be a trained Wildlife Recovery & Rehabilitation volunteer, who will be helping with the clean-up of wildlife. It is a graded certification course. OSHA reviewed the Level 3 training package from PEC Premier and give special support for BP to use this training package, specifically for this incident. For this first wave of level 3 training, we are giving priority to the wildlife specialists and BP contractors. 

(Not offered at Civic Center) Level 4
 – Responders who might have direct contact to petroleum (this would include boat captains and crew who are already contracted to BP). Those who are not contracted must work through the Vessel of Opportunity program. Safety, Marine and Hazwoper training is delivered if their vessel is selected to be contracted through that program.