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Locals react to Gulf oil spill

Beau Battaglia, 25, and his mother, Diane Knighten, lived their entire lives in St. Bernard Parish, La., until Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home and caused them to rethink everything.

“I had four feet of water in the upstairs of my house and was stuck there for two weeks,” Knighten said. “After going through that, I didn’t want to live there anymore.”

Now, the Gulf Coast faces another catastrophic disaster as hundreds of thousands of spilled crude oil is making its way to the Gulf Coast shoreline, threatening to destroy oyster and shrimp beds, devastating the seafood and tourism industry so vital to that area’s economy.

Today, Battaglia and Knighten own and operate Beau’s Po Boys and Pizza, 310 Sixth St. South, Clanton, and are watching the news about the oil spill closely, concerned now about how it could affect their business here.

“Our main concern is making certain the seafood we serve is safe,” Knighten said.

Battaglia said the oysters he serves at his Clanton restaurant come from St. Bernard Parish, La.

“If they don’t get it cleaned up before it gets close to the coast, it will destroy everything down there,” Battaglia said.

“If it does get to that point, the EPA will let us know, and we’ll get our oysters and seafood from someplace else.”

Battaglia said he enjoys living and working in Clanton, though he admits he misses the food he enjoyed in South Louisiana.

“But the food is all I miss about living down there. I miss my friends, but they aren’t there any more. They are spread out all over the place,” he said.

Knighten said, “I love Clanton. I love it. I would not want to go back down there. It’s a very different place.”

She said she fears the oil spill “is going to be a lot worse than what they anticipated. We can get seafood from another location, but it will be a little more expensive. My main concern is that what we serve is safe. We’ve not going to serve something that’s not safe.”

Jimmy Burnett, owner of Blue Paradise Travels of Clanton, said his business is mainly booking cruises that leave out of Mobile and Jacksonville, Port Canaveral and Tampa, all in Florida.

“We haven’t received any notices or anything about cruise cancellations,” Burnett said.