Incident Responses for January 2020

Posted Fri, 02/07/2020 - 15:09

Every month our Emergency Response Division provides scientific expertise and services to the U.S. Coast Guard on everything from running oil spill trajectories to model where the spill may spread, to possible effects on wildlife and fisheries and estimates on how long the oil may stay in the environment.

This month OR&R responded to eight incidents, including oil discharges, sunken vessels, and other pollution-related incidents.  

 Here are some of January’'s notable incidents:

 LifeMed Airplane Crashed in Alaska, Sheen Spotted

On Jan. 16, a LifeMed airplane reportedly crashed into the water off the north end of the Dutch Harbor runway into Unalaska Bay in Alaska. All passengers were rescued. 

An active sheen was spotted near the crash site after the fuselage sank. The plane was carrying about 500 gallons of Jet A fuel, and the Coast Guard asked NOAA to provide a trajectory and fates analysis for the fuel. 

In an overflight on Jan. 16, the Coast Guard estimated the sheen to be approximately 50 feet wide by 1,500 feet long. As the source of the discharge was not yet contained, the responsible party contracted a salvage operation to recover the plane. The plane was lifted from the waterway on Jan. 23 and responders determined that an estimated 170 gallons of jet fuel had discharged.  

NOAA determined that among the resources at risk are several Endangered Species Act enlisted animals, including Steller sea lions, sea otters, and Steller’s eiders. No wildlife impacts have been reported at this time. 

Diesel, Sulfuric Acid Discharged into the Mississippi After Vessel Collision

On Jan. 26, two towing vessels reportedly collided on the Mississippi River at mile marker 123 near Luling, Louisiana resulting in a discharge of both sulfuric acid and diesel fuel. 

According to a Coast Guard press release, the towing vessel, Cooperative Spirit, was reportedly transiting up bound on the river when it entered a barge fleeting area and allided with barges before colliding with the towing vessel RC Creppel — causing the Creppel to sink and the two barges it was carrying to breakaway. One crew member was rescued by another vessel, and three members of the RC Creppel crew are still missing. 

The Creppel’s barges were carrying sulfuric acid. One was damaged in the collision and began releasing an unknown amount of vapor into the air. The source of the release was secured shortly after the incident. NOAA’s regional response officer is working with OR&R Emergency and Response Division chemistry and oceanography experts to determine response actions for the acid release. The sinking vessel was also actively discharging diesel into the river.

In a Jan. 27 press release, the Coast Guard stated that no further traces of sulfuric acid were detected near the affected barge, and that there were no immediate health issues or concerns for the surrounding communities. Air monitoring in the area continued until the affected barge was salvaged and towed to a facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

 Buoy Adrift and Lost off Long Island

On. Jan. 27, the U.S. Coast Guard requested NOAA’s assistance in locating a navigational buoy that parted its anchor chain and drifted away sometime before Jan. 24. 

The buoy was originally positioned in Long Island Sound between Fishers Island and Plum Island. NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration worked together with NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey to track the possible movements of the buoy. 

A passing ferry later reported that they had seen the buoy. NOAA’s Navigational Response team responded and found that the buoy was mostly submerged and a clear hazard to navigation. The buoy was recovered. As the chain was knotted and the battery pockets had water intrusion, it was not returned to its original location. 

Here is the complete list of last month’s incidents, click on the links to find out more:

A fishing boat on the water.
On Jan. 1,a fishing vessel was reportedly sinking near Sutwik Island, Alaska due to high winds and heavy seas. The Coast Guard suspended the search for the five missing fishermen from the Scandies Rose after a 20-hour search. The Coast Guard requested fate and trajectory analysis for any potential release. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.