Beach workers in Orange Beach, Alabama, have noticed that strong winds from the south—that is, from the oil-soaked Gulf of Mexico—bring with them a greasy mist. Few in the town believe BP's claims that the oil is gone—why would they, when, after a day at the beach, a napkin rubbed over the pole of an umbrella comes back slimy and brown. "You could actually feel it in your hair and stuff," one beach worker tells NPR.
Orange Beach officials have paid independent scientists to test the water and land for oil. While they've found some disturbing evidence—the napkin-rub test also shows small amounts of oil caked on the stems of local plants—only long-term monitoring will determine the scope of damage to the ecosystem. "We are trying to figure it out, but we're living in it while we're trying to figure it out," says one geologist.