LAFITTE, LA (WVUE) - Life is naturally slower along the bayou separating the Town of Jean Lafitte from Barataria, but on Monday the Jean Lafitte Town Hall was bustling as dozens of people sat or stood inside bent on meeting a critical deadline.
Midnight, June 8, is the deadline for people to file claims under a 2012 multi-billion dollar settlement related to the 2010 BP oil spill.
Those in attendance said they too were impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill. Some who waited to submit claims said the oil that sullied bayous, streams and the Gulf of Mexico crippled the culture they so cherish.
"And our diet too, I mean we had to buy fish to eat at that time,” David Hebert said.
"I fish a lot , I'm 85 years old and I fish a lot,”Chester Hebert said.
The elder Hebert, Chester, said the spill's effects kept him from fishing at his camp on Grand Isle.
"We had all kinds of oil in front of my camp, we couldn't even fish,” he said.
Ruth Graves waited to file a claim. Her husband owns a seafood business in Westwego. She said he had previously filed a claim for the business.
"We didn't have the seafood to sell, my husband actually sold our jeep, our car, we actually almost everything we had because it was a hard, hard thing for us,” Graves said.
She came to file a claim for herself as someone who loves to fish, but could not for a while because of the oiled waters.
"You just don't have the fish out there,” she said.
On the Barataria side of the bayou commercial fisherman Ronald “Mister Jug” Dufrene readied his vessel in hopes of making a good haul.
"After an event like that it's hard to be made whole,” he said.
And even though it is years later, he and some other fishermen say the effects of the spill remain palpable.
"There's still cleanup, you know this past trip I recently caught a big tar ball,” Dufrene said.
He provided a video he shot of a tar ball he said he caught on Grand Isle and said it is time that all of the oil be cleaned up.
”We just want them to clean their mess,” Dufrene said.
Dufrene's claims would have fallen under the seafood compensation program, set up for commercial fishermen, vessel owners and other seafood industry workers. The deadline for those claims has already passed.
Still he pushes on, even though making a living is not what it used to be.
"I mean that's what this boat is designed to catch and then we're just having trouble finding them, the last couple of years we've been fishing more brown shrimp than anything."
And though he calls business five years after the spill a struggle, he remains committed.
"I've been riding this boat for 35 years," he said. "It's tough to let go, you know."
Deepwater Horizon Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau said “as of 1:00 pm on Monday, June 8, we are experiencing a substantial increase in claim filings through the internet portal and at the Claimant Assistance Centers. It will take several days to finalize the exact number of claims received since claims may be submitted by mail and accepted with a June 8 postmark. It is premature to release any claim totals until all claims are received.”