Local Oil Spill Leaders Vent on Washington

Increased estimates on Thursday of oil leaking from the broken well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico will likely surprise almost no one in Grand Isle, La., but right now they have even bigger worries: disasters on their shore, CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

On Thursday evening, The Washington Post reported that a preliminary government study says the well is most likely spewing at least 25,000 barrels of oil a day, and may be producing 40,000 or even 50,000 barrels a day.

Waves of oil washed into and over coastal Louisiana again Thursday. At the same time, Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle was one of several small town leaders in Washington pleading with a congressional committee to do something. Now.

"Please, please send us some help," Camardelle said. "I make $513 a week as mayor."

Camardelle's now feeding some of his city's 1,200 residents out of his own pocket.

"I've got my own family to raise," Camardelle told members of Congress. "I promise you I will not let no one starve on my island."

Roland Phillips is just as worried, working on his landlocked oyster boat. BP's spill leaves him a fisherman out of water.

"It's in my blood," Phillips said. "I love to do it. I'm going to die doing it. But with the situation, I feel like I'm already dead now."

On the sea floor, BP could double the amount of oil it captures every day by next week. On shore, local leaders see much less progress.

"I have spent more time fighting the officials of BP and the Coast Guard than fighting the oil," Billy Nungesser, president of Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish, said.

One frustration for many people: the work day of BP's thousands of cleanup workers.

In the heat, federal safety guidelines allow crews to work only 20 minutes of every hour.

In the early evening Thursday, the temperature registered about 95 degrees, and conditions were humid. Add in the smell of the thick crude, and it makes for a pretty long day for cleanup crews and for anyone running out of patience.

The safety rules also apply on the water, where the heat index peaks around 110. Workers in haz-mat suits work 20 minutes on, 40 minutes off, so not much work gets done. In an eight hour shift, they only work roughly two and a half hours.

Louisiana's wildlife is losing the battle.

Just in the first nine days of June, wildlife workers have rescued almost as many oiled birds as they did all of May.

"We get another wave of oil like we did last Thursday, I mean, it could be every bird in (Baritaria Bay) is going to be oiled up," said Drew Wheelan, a conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.