How IOSA helps prevent oil spills in the San Juan Islands
Four thousand gallons of diesel was onboard the Ruby Lily when she ran aground on rocks south of Patos Island sometime after midnight on June 7, 2011. Fortunately, only a tiny amount of fuel was leaking when IOSA was contacted in the wee hours of the morning by the United States Coast Guard & the Washington State Dept. of Ecology. By 8 am, the decision was made to have IOSA deploy containment boom around the vessel and arrangements were made to get equipment to the site to pump off as much fuel as possible while waiting for the late-night high tide to re-float the beautiful 50’ Ruby Lily.
Patos Island, northwest of Sucia Island, sits right at the intersection of Boundary Pass and the Strait of Georgia. Consequently, the area is subject to strong and constantly-changing currents, as well as wind and waves from all directions. IOSA Coordinators knew that this job called for responders who had a lot of training and experience working with spill response equipment in the difficult conditions that can be created by currents, wind and waves, all of which were a factor up on Little Patos that day.
IOSA’s main response vessel, the Sea Goose, left the dock at Shoal Bay that morning with 1000’ of containment boom (stationed on the boat at all times) and a crew of 4 very experienced IOSA responders. They deployed 500’ of containment boom around the grounded vessel and spent the day adjusting boom and re-setting anchors until Global Diving & Salvage arrived from the mainland with a truck that had the capacity to hold such a large amount of fuel. Towline Marine Assist from Friday Harbor had been hired to help get the boat off the rocks and the Island Transporter had the job of carrying Global’s truck and other equipment to the site.
With the strong currents and some heavy chop, it was tricky to get the barge up close enough to the Ruby Lily and keep it in position while fuel was pumped off the vessel into the tank truck on the barge. The boom also had to be opened up to accommodate the operation so responders kept a constant vigil on any potential leaking of fuel into the water. At one point mid-day, sheen was noticed around the vessel and it was discovered to be a small hole in the transducer, which was easily captured in a bucket. The tank full of diesel had not been compromised.
At 10 pm, 1500 gallons of diesel had been pumped off the boat and she began to float. IOSA responders were given the OK to pull boom and began heading back to Shoal Bay, where they arrived at 1:30 in the morning, a very tired but satisfied crew, knowing they had done an excellent job in difficult conditions. We want to thank them not only for the great job they did but also for the fact that each of them dropped what they were doing that morning and were willing and able to get their gear together and head out on the Sea Goose, with no idea how long the job would take but knowing they could handle whatever came up.