NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Wildlife rehabilitators have been decontaminating dozens of alligators, brushing their pointy teeth and cleaning their scaly hides, in the weeks since a 300,000-gallon diesel spill in a wetland in the New Orleans metropolitan area.
The diesel spilled in the Chalmette area, a suburb of New Orleans, on Dec. 27 after a heavily corroded oil pipeline ruptured, according to federal records.
Since then, 78 alligators have been rescued, 33 of which had been cleaned and released on Friday in a national wildlife refuge located in New Orleans and about 16 kilometers from the site of the spill, in the district of San Bernardo, reported the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries of Louisiana.
Cleaning a six-foot-long alligator on Thursday took eight people: four bras, two scrubbers, one person with a hose to rinse with hot water and another to change the wash water, said Laura Carver, who became coordinator of the department’s oil spill in February 2010, less than three months before a huge BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
Carver said the impact on wildlife caused by the December diesel spill was quite high compared to most spills in Louisiana.
Rehabilitating so many alligators at once “is something new for us,” Carver said.
He noted that a hard piece of wood “like an old mop” is used to hold the alligator’s jaw open while its teeth are cleaned.
Teeth cleaning is done at the end of a series of body washes in which progressively lower concentrations of Dawn detergent are used to remove soils. “Their mouths are literally washed out with soap. But it’s the only thing that works,” Carver said.
He added that almost all of the spill ended up in two man-made ponds, with only the smaller one completely covered in diesel.
Most of the fuel has been recovered from the tanks and contractors for operator Collins Pipeline Co. of Collins, Miss., are working on plans to treat the contaminated soil, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Gregory Langley said Friday. .