BRADENTON — Although the west coast of Florida has a low probability of oil washing ashore, a local college plans to offer several online courses to train participants in handling hazardous waste.
The odds of oil washing ashore in west Florida are less than 1 percent up to 20 percent, according to models run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA models predict that the Florida Keys, Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas have a greater risk, 61 percent to 80 percent, due to the influence of the Loop Current.
The State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota classes would offer training in handling toxic goo, such as that from the Gulf oil spill that has washed up on beaches along Panhandle.
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The courses are designed for employees visiting or working at an uncontrolled hazardous waste operation mandated by the government, according to SCF officials. They are approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Kathy Walker, SCF’s director of public affairs and marketing, cautioned that course participants would not automatically qualify for jobs, such as those offered by subcontractors who are cleaning beaches in north Florida blackened by BP’s runaway Deepwater Horizon oil well.
That thought was seconded by BP spokesman Phil Cochrane.
BP provides and pays for workers’ training in the event oil comes ashore, he said.
The company offers the “Qualified Community Responder” program and hires through a subcontractor, Cochrane said.
“We do not have plans to offer the QCR program in Manatee or Hillsborough or Pinellas because the risk remains very, very low, and what we are doing in other counties where we have offered the program, we are working very closely with the Agency for Workforce Innovation, identifying unemployed individuals when it comes time to begin recruiting,” Cochrane explained.
“There’s a very specific process we follow, and if you don’t go through that process, there’s no guarantee of an opportunity to become a QCR at the end of it, or be reimbursed for the out-of-pocket costs,” he said.
Manatee County’s shoreline remains clean. No oil has come ashore here.
Earlier this week, BP’S massive oil spill became the largest ever in the Gulf of Mexico, based on the highest of the U.S. government’s estimates.
The oil that has spewed for two-and-a-half months from a blown-out well a mile under the sea hit the 140.6 million gallon mark, eclipsing the record-setting, 140-million-gallon Ixtoc I spill off Mexico’s coast from 1979-80.
SCF’s offerings include everything from an eight-hour continuing education refresher course to a “Hazwoper” 40-hour course that also requires three days of hands-on training before the attendee may enter a contaminated site, SCF officials said.
Classes range in cost from $49-$375 each, according to the college.
“It’s of most benefit to people already working in situations where they would be working with sensitive substances and chemicals,” said Walker. “It’s to get them certified, in labs, industrial settings.”
For information about SCF’s classes, call (941) 363-7203.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.