NEW ORLEANS – The town of White Springs, Fla. was a late comer in filing a lawsuit against British Petroleum claiming economic damages due to the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
The town, which boasts a population of around 800 people, joined numerous other local governments in suit against the oil giant. It met the mandate of filing suit within three years of the anniversary of the spill by filing one day before the anniversary deadline of April 20.
In its suit filed at the United States Federal Court for the Middle District of Florida, White Springs claims the spill “directly resulted in a disastrous physical and economic impact over the ensuing months and years on the beaches and businesses of the Florida Panhandle, among other places, including but not limited to the property and economic interests of plaintiff.”
The difference between White Springs and many of the other counties and municipalities that have filed suit is that the small town is much closer to the Georgia border in north central Florida than the Gulf Coast, which at its nearest point is about 80 miles to the southwest. The Deepwater Horizon Oil rig, which exploded and began the largest oil spill in recorded history, was located about 600 miles away in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana.
White Springs claims it lost tax revenue due to a decrease in tourism statewide directly connected to the oil spill. In addition, it alleges it has “incurred the costs of response, removal, clean-up, restoration and/or remediation after the Spill” despite no indication that it was directly impacted by the oil spill.
Other Florida municipalities that are actually on the Gulf Coast, such as Tarpon Springs, which has a population 27 times larger than White Springs and a thriving marine and fishing industry, located just northwest of Tampa, did not file claims.
Tarpon Springs leaders said they did not see any effects from the oil spill and in fact found they brought in more revenue during the spill.
“We just looked at the numbers and we couldn't prove we'd lost anything,” City Manager Mark LeCouris told the Tampa Bay Times.
White Springs is being represented by Neil E. "Ned" McWilliams of Pensacola-based Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor.
In an advertisement on its website the firm shows a coverage map for potential claimants that includes all of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as well as parts of Florida, but not the area where White Springs is located.
White Springs is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 in the lawsuit.
Officials for the town did not return messages left by the Louisiana Record.