7 Gulf oil spill cleanup workers hospitalized

NEW ORLEANS — Seven workers helping to clean up the Gulf oil spill remain hospitalized after they reported dizziness, headaches and nausea while working on boats off the Louisiana coast.

West Jefferson Medical Center spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo said today that doctors believe the likely cause is chemical irritation and dehydration from long hours working in the heat.

Alfonzo said the workers told doctors they believe chemicals used to break up the oil made them sick.

Authorities say the workers became ill Wednesday while cleaning up oil in Breton Sound, southeast of New Orleans.

Officials ordered all 125 commercial boats working the cleanup there to leave the area.

EPA chief: Use of dispersants significantly down

WASHINGTON — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency says that BP’s use of dispersants to fight the Gulf oil spill has been significantly reduced.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told a House subcommittee today that BP used less than 12,000 gallons of dispersants on Wednesday, down from 70,000 gallons four days ago.

Jackson made the comment in arguing that EPA has been aggressive in getting BP to scale back its use of the dispersants, whose long-term effects are unknown. The chemicals are used to break up oil spilled into water.

Coast Guard OKs part of La.’s sand berm plan

NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen today approved portions of Louisiana’s $350 million plan to ring its coastline with a wall of sand meant to keep out the Gulf of Mexico oil.

Allen said the state could move forward on a network of sand berms along the Chandeleur Islands and a string of barrier islands west of the Mississippi River.

The approved berms make up about half of an 86-mile network considered a last-ditch attempt to keep oil out of the state’s fragile marshes.

“Implementing this section of the proposal will allow us to assess this strategy’s effectiveness in protecting coastal communities and habitats of the Gulf as quickly as possible,” Allen said in a statement.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said BP PLC, which is responsible for the spill’s cleanup, would pay for the first section to be built, at Scofield Island. He said the oil company would pay for the other five if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deems the Scofield berm successful.

The wetlands that would be shielded by the sand barrier are a vital nursery for shrimp, crabs, oysters and numerous species of fish that support Louisiana’s $3 billion fishing industry.