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NR grad helps clean Gulf oil mess

Patrick Keilen

A New Richmond High School graduate is working to clean up the Gulf of Mexico after the recent oil spill disaster.

Patrick Keilen, who graduated in 1987, is part of the crew on an anti-pollution ship which is dispatched to environmental disasters in the region.

According to Keilen's father Don Keilen, of rural Deer Park, the environmental responder has been stationed along the California coast for years.

"He's been on the water all his life," Don Keilen said, noting that his son worked on Mississippi River barges for a number of years prior to getting into the environmental responder business.

Keilen, who lives on a sailboat in California, was dispatched to the Gulf on Sunday, May 2, to help deal with the British Petroleum leak that threatens to wreak havoc on the region for months and years to come.

Keilen's brother Dan said Patrick is the captain of a smaller boat that is launched off of a larger ship. The smaller vessel helps to lay oil clean-up booms in the water.

"He was out in the Gulf since Monday," Dan reported. "They've been going steady ever since. They must be working round the clock with different shifts."

His crew is skimming off large quantities of oil from the surface of the gulf, Dan said.

"He is very proud of what they are accomplishing," he noted. "He said it is hard work and very hot on the water. They constantly monitor the air quality and it does get smelly in the heavy oil concentrations."

Dan Keilen said the family has only been able to communicate with Patrick briefly since his deployment in the Gulf of Mexico, thanks to a cell phone tower on a nearby oil rig.

"They can call quick if they happen to be near the tower," he said.

The Keilen family is able to follow the ship's daily progress thanks to a tracking system on the Internet.

"Patrick knew he would not have much Internet access or cell phone access at least for the next two weeks," Dan said. "We know he'll be out there until they're done dealing with the leak."

In all his years working on environmental clean-up vessel, Patrick has never been called to action for a live leak, Dan reported.

All the training and readiness he's amassed through the years is coming in handy now, Dan added.

Since an April 20 explosion at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig, about 48 miles from the coast of Louisiana, the oil slick has been growing larger.

At its peak, the leaking oil well dumped about 210,000 gallons of oil spilled per day. To combat the problem, the U.S. Coast Guard has been utilizing 75 boats and 2,000 personnel to clean-up and contain the spill.

Attempts to stop the flow of oil from the damaged well have been unsuccessful so far. The oil leak could potentially become the nation's worst environmental disaster if the leak is not plugged in the coming weeks.