On September 20, 2014, IOSA held an oil containment drill on the west side of Orcas Island. One of the first things that was done was to discuss the currents in the area. Current tables are a good first step in looking at how water moves through an area, but we have also found that it is important to incorporate people’s personal knowledge of the currents. Using people’s personal knowledge gives us information about particular quirks of current and tides that is not always found in published information.
One of the tasks for the drill was to run the rope mop skimmer. Another important priority was to practice towing boom with two boats working in close coordination. They needed to maintain a V-shape in the boom while traveling at a slow speed and intercepting “imagined oil/oiled debris” (or in this case, intercepting the nylon-covered hoops used to simulate oil or debris).
As with a spill response, during the drill we needed to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. As the situation unfolded our best option was to use the rope mop skimmer on the bow of the Sea Goose, positioned at the apex of the V-shaped boom. Two vessels, the Camp Orkila boat the Whale Fish and one of IOSA’s response vessels, our landing craft the Green Heron, set up to pull 200′ of 20″ oil containment boom behind them.
The rope mop skimmer uses a line of oleophyllic mop material (the yellow “tail” seen in the above photo). Oleophyllic means it adheres to oil and not water. The rope mop skimmer works best with heavier oil such as bunker fuel (which is a mixture of heavier oils and lighter oils).
The two vessels towing the boom and the Sea Goose traveled together through the water while the skimming was happening. Responders on the vessel the Little Whaler helped set up the rope mop skimmer, as well as deploying nylon hoops into the water to simulate oil. Usually we deploy the rope mop skimmer from land, but practiced using it from a vessel this time.
Another aspect of the drill was to set up oil snare on a beach. Oil snare is used to pick up heavier oils (like bunker fuel). The snare adheres to oil as it reaches the beach, the oil accumulates on the snare, and when covered with oil it is removed from the beach.
The line of oil snare was attached to fenceposts and we discussed how to use it. The use of a shoreline attachment plate was also demonstrated. The plate can be used to anchor boom to the beach, especially helpful for shoreline where there are no large boulders or trunks of large fallen trees to tie to.
While out there, one vessel, the Octopii, did a wildlife survey of the area. Numerous seabirds and seals were seen, including a flock of phalaropes. Knowing what seabirds congregate in different areas is important knowledge to have before an oil spill.
Thanks to both West Beach Resort for letting us have temporary use of their dock for a pre-drill briefing and Camp Orkila for use of the beach for set up of the snare and post-drill briefing for the crew.
Twenty-five people from Lopez, Orcas, San Juan, and Waldron participated in the drill, with two IOSA boats and three responders’ boats. The drill was highly informative and successful. It was a good exercise for the responders and boat operators, and contributed to our knowledge of the area.