Oil is creeping toward the Louisiana town of Lafitte, but Mayor Nutter, in a visit there Monday, said he noticed more hope and cooperation than despair and devastation.
"The images that we see back at home are very, very different than what's on the ground," Nutter said as he prepared to return to Philadelphia. "All we see are pictures of the oil gushing out of the ground and reports of conflict and confusion. At least where we were, nothing could be further from the truth."
Local, state, and federal officials are working alongside representatives of the seafood and oil industries in the cleanup, Nutter said.
Nutter made the trip as part of a group organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to push officials in Washington and at oil giant BP to communicate closely with mayors and other leaders in Gulf Coast states about the crisis.
Nutter boarded a boat from Lafitte to tour waterways he said were about 15 miles from the Deepwater Horizon rig to learn more about the spreading oil.
"I absolutely will not call it a spill. A spill is something that happens with a glass of water or milk. This is a catastrophe," Nutter said. "We saw oil clumps in the water. I saw marshes that have been clearly damaged by the oil."
But many beaches were untouched, he said, and "about 70 percent of the fisheries are still open and functioning."
The City of Philadelphia paid for his trip, but the mayor said he was not sure how much it cost. He said the group, which included New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, would assess what it learned during the voyage and then decide its next step. Mayors and officials from Gulf Coast states as well as Long Beach and Santa Barbara, Calif., and Burnsville, Minn., were also on the tour.
Contact staff writer Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.