Agility of the community college system in preparing for BP oil spill landfall

i-fee6f52bf675a0c2113f4c2f73d32b73-FKCC.gifThe leadership team and all the staff here at Terra Sigillata world headquarters was taken aback yesterday when reports surfaced about the appearance of tar balls on the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and Bahia Honda State Park, the closest long beach to Key West, Florida. A Coast Guard marine laboratory in Connecticut is currently examining the content of the tar balls to determine if they are indeed from, as feared, the BP Deepwater Horizon well. (Someone in the field has to help me out here but I believe there are an awful lot of LC/tandem mass spectrometers at Florida's institutions of higher education and research institutes.).

We have spoken previously of our education and research work with colleagues at the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden together with Duke University conservation biologist, Stuart Pimm. This area holds great personal and professional meaning for us here. The apparent spread of the oil spill not only means that the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the west coast of Florida will be affected but that oil may begin to find its way up the Atlantic coast. Not that any place is more or less important or environmentally sensitive, but the long range effects of the spill may be coming to realization.

We keep a subscription to Key West's The Citizen newspaper and I've been really impressed by how active the community has been in mobilizing for combating the spill. The maps and current profiles I see remind me of those we see when a hurricane is approaching. As such, Florida Keys Community College has launched today one of two planned, three-day training sessions for responding to volunteer to help mitigate damage from the spill. The $575 tuition also certifies one to meet OSHA requirements for Hazardous Material Technician.

24-Hour OSHA HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard) Technician Level Training:

Wednesday May 19 - Friday May 24
8:00a.m.-5:00p.m. at FKCC's Key West campus
Cost: $575/person

Monday May 24 - Wednesday May 26
8:00a.m.-5:00p.m. at FKCC's Key West campus
Cost: $575/person

Description: The 24-hour course is designed for persons who respond to a hazardous materials incident for the purpose of stopping, containing, controlling and cleaning up the release. This level of training is also appropriate for persons performing limited tasks at an uncontrolled hazardous waste site and who are unlikely to be exposed above permissible exposure limits. This training meets all OSHA requirements for the Hazardous Material Technician (29 CFR 1910.120).

Please note: Those who have received the 4-hour Marine Oil Spill Cleanup course will be dismissed at 12:00p.m. on the last day of class.

For more information or to register, contact FKCC Director of Continuing Education Cathy Torres at 305-809-3250.

Not written in the workshop description is the likelihood that such training would place one at the top of the list should federally-funded employment become available for cleanup efforts as happened following the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska.

I applaud my colleagues across the Lower Keys and at Key West Community College for mobilizing so quickly and providing timely education to serve the community. We take our community colleges for granted sometimes, so I want to draw attention to one of the underappreciated functions of this facet of higher education.

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Kudos to the Florida Keys Community College - not just for having this up and running so quickly, but for doing a 24-hour HAZWOPER training. A lot of the cleanup workers are only getting 4 hours, which I can't imagine is sufficient given the hazardous substances involved.