Oil Spill Gets Noisy



Although state officials contend surrounding wildlife will be impacted only minimally by the massive oil spill that stilled traffic on the Mississippi River at New Orleans, the federal government is taking an interesting approach to ensure that forecast holds true. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has hatched a plan that involves installing 100 propane cannons along the contaminated sections of the river to scare away birds. 

Propane cannons are machines that ignite propane gas to produce loud explosions at timed or random intervals. They will be located in areas of high use by waterfowl and moved around every few days. “The noise is extremely loud,” says Buddy Goatcher, FWS contaminants specialist. “We are placing the cannons mostly in the battures, the swamps inside the levees, to keep feeding birds from oiled areas.” And while the loud devices might be good for scaring winged creatures, they’re definitely bad for human eardrums. “They could pose a threat to anyone getting within 500 feet of one,” Goatcher says. As if the noise won’t be enough, the cannons also will be augmented with modified flare guns and starter pistols that fire special cracker shells. The noise-making operation is expected to continue until the swamp areas are cleaned of oil from the spill. — Jeremy Alford

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