Locals and visitors alike have come in droves to Sarasota's world-famous Siesta Key beach as crude oil from the failed oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, begins sloshing ashore here, turning the once-pristine sugar-white sand into a stained, oily mess that only Hermann Rohrshach could have loved.
For weeks, scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory have been issuing updates concerning the looming invasion by the inky slick. Specially trained dolphins from Mote were outfitted with Hazelwood Devices, ironically named after the captain of the ill-fated Exxon Valdez. Described by one marine biologist as "a sophisticated dipstick attached to a radio transmitter," the Hazelwood Device is bolted onto the dorsal fin of the gentle sea creature and continuously sends back data regarding water quality while the dolphin frolics about in the sea, until, ultimately, the device springs a leak, shorting out the battery and delivering a lethal electrical shock to the unwary mammal.
Based on this information, the Sarasota County Lifeguard Service was able to keep the beach-going public apprised of conditions.
In addition to the usual flags already in use on public beaches, three other flags have been placed into service, all having black backgrounds and bearing one of three messages: "10W30", "10W40" or "Off-Road Diesel Only."
While some beachgoers frantically began scooping up the oil with pails, buckets and other containers to take home with them, others simply filled empty soda bottles and poured the oil directly into their vehicles' crankcases in the parking lots. Government officials met hurriedly to determine if using the oil was a violation of Federal law by not paying the appropriate taxes on it and whether those who collected the oil for personal use would be prosecuted.
Meanwhile, at least one enterprising company had come up with a novel way to not only save the beach environment on the Suncoast, but turn a profit, as well. Kleppick's Barrels of Nokomis has rented the popular sightseeing vessel, The Three-Fingered Starfish, formerly run by Kleppick's Charter Service, and is using it to capture the oil off-shore, put it into barrels and then let the barrels drift into the beach, where they are collected by Kleppick's Temporary Staffing personnel, loaded onto trucks from Kleppick's Cartage and delivered to BP's Sarasota headquarters located at the old Kleppick place. "It's a win-win for the community and the environment," said Coast Guard Commander Phantley Kleppick at a joint news conference with BP Vice-President of Claims for Southwest Florida, Beneva Kleppick Heyward.