Oil spill response

Islands Oil Spill Association has been responding to oil spills since 1988.  Over the years we have expanded from no boats to six oil spill response vessels, from no boom to 9,800 feet of oil containment boom, 1,450 feet of mini-boom and having the use of 4,000 feet of boom owned by the WA Dept. of Ecology.

IOSA has been assessing, responding to and cleaning up oil spills with our trained responders, the vessels and oil containment boom and supportive equipment for 29 years in San Juan County, Washington State. Our volunteer responders are trained in Hazardous Waste Emergency Operations Safety (HAZWOPER), use of oil containment boom, use of air monitoring equipment for hazardous gases, oil spill response coordination, and oiled wildlife rescue and care.

Some volunteers have been with us for the entire 29 years and others are just beginning.  Our responders have anywhere from 8 to 40 plus hours accumulated training plus 8 hours of refresher courses each year.  We average 250 to 300 volunteers at any one time, with 100 to 150 with enough training and experience to respond immediately to an oil spill.

IOSA works closely with other oil spill response organizations in our local trainings as well as State and industry oil spill drills.  These drills closely integrates IOSA into the oil spill response community with whom we have good long term working relationships.

Spill types reported to IOSA

  • Vessel groundings, sinkings, collisions, fires and explosions;
  • Oily bilge water pumped overboard; truck saddle tanks breaking on ferry ramp;
  • Leaks from boats, pipes, fuel lines, fuel tanks, heavy equipment near-shore, and abandoned buried fuel lines leaking through storm drains;
  • Truck tank overfills flowing into storm drains and ponds; tar patties form from unknown oil sources;
  • Mystery spills and non-oil substances such as pollen, algae, ashes, dye, household & hazardous materials;
  • Vessel construction & maintenance supplies falling off boats into the water.

How IOSA prevents oil spills

Read the story of the Ruby Lily to learn how IOSA responds and prevents oil spills.

Geographic Response Plans (GRPs)

Every year Islands Oil Spill Association conducts drills to test protection strategies for various bays and sensitive areas in the San Juan Islands.  These strategies are all listed in the Geographic Response Plan (GRP) for the State of Washington and are an addendum to the Northwest Area Contingency Plan.  The purpose of the GRP strategies per the Washington State Department of Ecology are:

Each GRP is written for a specific area (for example a river, a lake, or section of Puget Sound), and includes tactical response strategies tailored to a particular shore or waterway at risk of injury from oil. GRPs have two main objectives:

  • To identify sensitive natural, cultural or significant economic resources at risk of injury from oil spills.
  • To describe and prioritize response strategies in an effort to reduce injury to sensitive natural, cultural, and certain economic resources at risk from oil spills. (Dept of Ecology GRPs)

Each year, IOSA conducts tests of these strategies.

Since 1991, IOSA has completed ongoing, on-site methodical testing of response & boom deployment strategies for these priority areas, and has worked to improve strategies and add information about currents, hazards, access, shore attachments and special environmental concerns in each area.

Documentation and publication of GRPs for the priority areas of Washington state was established by the Washington Dept. of Ecology, and since the beginning, IOSA has provided our local knowledge of San Juan County priority areas and GRP field tests for documentation in state plans, so that in a larger spill involving a number of response organizations, this local knowledge will help everyone be more effective.

One example of local knowledge are ways that  currents move in different bays in San Juan Islands.  Local fishermen and boaters have knowledge of local areas that doesn’t always show up in official literature.  A current may move one way on one side of the bay, and move the other way on the other side, tides may flood or ebb for longer than usual.  With the local knowledge of our responders we are able to plan for and work with the anomalies of various sites, as well as pass this information onto the Washington Department of Ecology for inclusion in the Geographic Area Response Plan.

Annual Spill Reports

See the full archive of our Annual Spill Reports, beginning in 2003.

Oil Spill Response in San Juan County, Washington

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