Drills Improve Spill Response Capacity

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the State of Alaska conduct joint unified planning for oil spill response to eliminate planning redundancy. The Unified Plan provides a coordinated federal, state and local response strategy within Alaska and its surrounding waters. Subarea Contingency Plans (SCPs) focus on issues and provisions specific to each of 10 subareas in Alaska. The SCPs are the result of joint planning among the ADEC, USCG, EPA, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), and other federal, State, local, Native and industry participants.

Spill response phases

  1. Responders contain and remove the oil or other hazardous substance at the scene of the spill or while it is still on open water to reduce or eliminate impact on shorelines or sensitive habitats.
  2. If not fully removed in phase 1, responders intercept, contain and remove any remaining substance in the nearshore area.
  3. If not fully removed in phase 2, responders implement Geographic Response Strategies (GRS) to protect sensitive areas in the path of the oil from the impacts of a spill or to minimize that impact to the maximum practical extent. GRS are site-specific, map-based response plans that can save time during the critical first few hours of an oil spill response. GRS show responders where sensitive areas are located and where to place oil spill protection resources. GRS are developed with extensive stakeholder input to minimize environmental damage, use as small a footprint as possible to support the response operations, and select sites for equipment deployment that will not cause more damage than the spilled oil.

Spill response drill

In July 2014, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) and Alaska Chadux (the region’s oil spill response organization) conducted an oil spill response drill near Teller and Brevig Mission. The drill was designed to test and revise the area’s response plans. Companies that barge fuel to communities along the Bering Strait coast contract with Chadux to clean up the spill. The drill tested how long it took to move equipment and personnel to the site of the spill, as well as deploy them. For on-water activities, the response team brought in a vessel of opportunity (a pre-identified local commercial vessel with a crew trained and equipped to assist in oil spill response) from Nome.

The response drill revealed vulnerabilities in the team’s ability to respond to a spill event and will lead to a stronger response plan in future.

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