They filled out paperwork as the organization’s executive director, David Baker, reminded them of what to pack on today’s scheduled journey to Biloxi, Miss. Twenty certified workers are expected to head out around noon to help with the oil-spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.
“People need jobs right now, and this catastrophe is one of the biggest happened in our country in a long time. We’re trying to pull people to go down there and help,” said Baker, whose organization was founded in the 1990s to help west Anniston residents affected by PCBs. The organization started training area residents in 2006 on how to remove pollutants.
Through a $500,000 federal stimulus grant, CAP has trained in managing hazardous waste, eliminating mold problems, CPR and first aid; it’s also certified by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
Baker said he received a call Sunday asking for trained workers to help contain the thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the gulf from an exploded oil rig. He’d been up since 4:30 a.m. Monday getting people and paperwork prepared. Thanks to the training he’s provided to community members, the organization was ready to respond immediately.
“We have people ready to go,” said Derrick McLaughlin, Baker’s administrative aid. “We’ve trained people so they could be ready here (for environmental clean-up), and we’re fortunate we’re able to deploy them (to Biloxi),” he said.
Fourteen local people left Monday for the coast Monday. All of the trained workers will be contracted through Hepaco, an environmental contracting firm that specializes in emergency response and environmental remediation.
They’ll ride out to sea to drop linings which will attempt to push the leaked oil away from the coastline. The slick has already forced the shutdown of the gulf’s rich fishing grounds and could also spread to the busy shipping lanes at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Ask any of the folks gathered at the headquarters Monday why they’re going and they’ll all give the same reply: “I just want to help.”
Michelle Norfleet said she underwent training because of Anniston’s environmental contamination problems, including polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and lead.
“Our community is very, very contaminated,” she said. “I wanted to help the community.”
Baker said the workers will likely be paid about $20 an hour. They plan to work in Biloxi between three and six months. The organization has trained 75 local people ready to deploy if needed.
“These are people who were knocked out and left out for whatever reason, and we’re getting them back out into the workforce. They can work anywhere in the U.S.,” he said.
The previous training sessions were held at the Elks Lodge 189, and one of the major players in those sessions did not live to see the work pay off so soon. McLaughlin said one of the Elks members, Carl Woodgett, who died over the weekend, always made sure those at the training sessions were fully accommodated.
“He was instrumental, a tremendous help,” McLaughlin said.
That community spirit encapsulates this program’s mission, he said. Many people enroll who have been directed there by judges as a term of their probation.
“We teach them to keep their pants up, how to dress and how to be respectful,” Baker said. “And we emphasize that job ethics always come first.”
Interviews for CAP’s June training session are scheduled for mid-May. Contact Baker at 418 West 15th Street for more information.
Contact staff writer Rebecca Walker at 256-235-3562.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.