Oilspill Past Updates

Past Updates on the Bouchard No. 120 Oil Spill

April 2003 Buzzards Bay Oil Spill: Bouchard Oil Barge Bouchard No. 120

About the morning briefing notes: Immediately after the Bouchard No. 120 Command Center was established, oil spill cleanup status briefings were held several times daily. This later was reduced to morning and afternoon summary briefings. During May and June, the Buzzards Bay NEP attended most of the 8 AM briefings. Beginning June 16, morning briefings were held only on Mondays and Thursdays at 9 AM. These briefing are held at the Incident Command Center, which is finally located at the Mattapoisett Fire Station. The Command Center was closed on August 29, 2003.

At the briefings, the Coast Guard, other state and federal personnel, and private contractors gave a brief summary of their activities and progress. Also in attendance is a representative of the citizen group, the Buzzards Bay Coalition, and invariably some local officials including fire chiefs, town administrators, or other visitors. The briefing notes reported here are just some highlights of this meeting. This log presented on this web site is not an official summary of the meeting, is not presented on behalf of the Coast Guard or any agency responsible for the cleanup, and could contain errors and omissions.

The final command center.

The final command center in Mattapoisett.

Previously Posted Updates

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

We posted a report prepared by GEOInsight Inc. titled “Immediate Response Action Plan Status and Completion” report dated April 2007. Go to the Cleanup Status Page to view it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We posted a report prepared by GEOInsight Inc. titled PHASE IV IMPLEMENTATION PLAN HOPPY’S LANDING (LONG ISLAND) in Fairhaven, MA. Go to the Cleanup Status Page to view it.

Friday, October 6, 2006

We have begun posting August 2006 reports prepared by GEOInsight Inc. as part of their RESPONSE ACTION OUTCOME STATEMENT. Go to the Cleanup Status Page to view them.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

We posted cleanup scope of work files prepared by GEOInsight Inc.’s during the summer and fall of 2005. Go to the Cleanup Status Page to view them.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

We posted GEOInsight Inc.’s June 6, 2006 presentation on the Cleanup Status Page.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

GEOInsight Inc. is hosting an informational meeting today at 6:30 PM at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford to discuss remaining oil spill cleanup activities related to the Bouchard No. 120 spill. Read the New Bedford Standard Times Newspaper article for more information.

Monday, July 18, 2005

We have received from GEOInsight Inc., two plans to cleanup residual oil (principally buried) at two sites: a site on West Island, Fairhaven, and a site near Brandt Island in Mattapoisett. Go to our Cleanup Status page to download the two reports.

Friday, June 10, 2005

During a US Coast Guard Change of Command Ceremony at the US Naval Station in Newport, Rhode Island, Captain Mary Landry received a special commendation for her 3 year service as Commander of the US Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Providence. Captain Landry was the commanding officer responsible for overseeing the safety and security of the environmentally sensitive waterways of Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. She was also the federal on-scene coordinator for the clean-up of Buzzards Bay after Bouchard No. 120 Incident Command Center. Captain Landry is transferring to the Coast Guard’s First District Headquarters in Boston where she will assume the duties of the chief of marine safety.

The Buzzards Bay NEP, like others involved with the oil spill, appreciated Captain Landry’s commitment and dedication to the oil spill clean-up, and we wish her well at her new post.

Captain Mary Landry after receiving her Commendation

Captain Mary Landry after receiving her Commendation from Rear Admiral David Pekoske.

Captain Nash comes to MSO Providence from his position as commanding officer of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center in Washington, DC, where he was principally involved with overseeing the review and approval of commercial vessel plans.

In his past position, Captain Nash became involved with the assessment of the volume of oil spilled in Buzzards Bay. A month after the spill volume was announced to be 98,000 gallons, a consultant for the Bouchard Transportation Company concluded that only 22,000-55,000 gallons of Number 6 oil were spilled. The independent auditing firm Caleb-Brett Intertek had made the 98,000-gallon estimate, the day after the spill, while the damaged tanker was anchored in Buzzards Bay. Bouchard’s consultants estimate was based on the amount of oil originally carried by the B120, the amount of oil delivered, and the amount recovered from the B120 after the vessel had all its compartments and lines were steam cleaned during its repair.

The Buzzards Bay NEP wrote Captain Landry and the MA DEP identifying flaws and weaknesses in the consultant’s analysis, and we presented additional information that supported the original 98,000-gallon spill estimate. Captain Landry forwarded our comments to Captain Nash’s office. On June 29, 2004, Captain Nash concluded in a memorandum to the Coast Guard MSO Providence (208 kb pdf file) that the best estimate of oil spilled was the 98,000 gallon estimate made by the firm Caleb Brett Intertek the day after the spill. More information about the volume spilled is on our Oil Volume page.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

We have posted the presentation made by GEOInsight Inc. at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on June 2, including a computer simulation movie of the transport of oil in the first few days after the accident. These presentations are posted on our Cleanup Status page.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

GEOInsight Inc. will hold a public meeting tonight at the New Bedford Whaling Museum theater at 7 PM. Doors will open at 6:30 PM for the viewing of exhibits. GEOInsight will discuss information contained in its April 2005 Cleanup Status Report . A short presentation will also be made about progress in the ongoing natural response damage assessment.

Friday, April 22, 2005

We have received from GEOInsight, the licensed site professional overseeing the final phases of the cleanup, their March 23, 2005 report on cleanup activities in Buzzards Bay to address oil spill cleanup activities from the Bouchard No. 120 oil spill. While the body of the report is only 25 pages long, appended to it are many excellent maps, figures, and appendixes that summarize areas affected and actions taken. It also includes some measurements of hydrocarbon concentrations observed. We have set up to a separate page to download the various sections of the report at this link: April 2005 Cleanup Status Report from GEOInsight

Friday, January 14, 2005

It was reported in the press that three projects in the “Buzzards Bay Watershed Partners” grant to the federal NAWCA grant program will be funded with Bouchard No. 120 fines, for a total of $2.3 million. Read details on our NAWCA page.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

We have received from GEOInsight, a December 1, 2004 dated plan for additional cleanup activities at Strawberry Point in Mattapoisett to address residual oil from the B120 release. This plan (Proposed IRA Cleanup Activities W1E-03 Strawberry Point West DEP RTN 4-17786), and some supporting material, are posted on our Status and Announcements page.

Monday, December 6, 2004

We finally updated our Shellfish Impacts page to reflect the shellfish oil spill ban rescissions announced by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries on June 29, 2004.

Monday, November 22, 2004

On Friday, November 19, 2004 a federal judge announced that a $10 million guilty plea criminal settlement agreement had been finalized between the Bouchard Transportation Company, and the federal government ( read this New Bedford Standard Times from 11/19/04, “Bouchard pleads guilty, agrees to $10M fine”) to learn more. Of the $10 million, $7 million would go to the North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) fund, $2 million would go to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (for the cleanup of spills where the responsible party is unknown), and $1 million will be suspended while the company completes a three-year probation requiring certain actions.

Go to or Settlement Information page for more information, and our new NAWCA page for more information on potential projects in Buzzards Bay.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The US Coast Guard has proposed the new required shipping lanes in Buzzards Bay for Hazardous cargo. The detailed description and regulations are posed in the Federal Register (pdf file posting). The announcement includes dates and locations of public hearings.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

We have received from GEOInsight, the September 2004 IRA status report. This reports, and some supporting material, are posted on our Status and Announcements page.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

We have received from GEOInsight, the licensed site professional overseeing the final phases of the cleanup, correspondence that outlines “proposed additional cleanup activities planned at Leisure Shores Beach in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.” This correspondence is posted on our Status and Announcements page.

Reminder: Tomorrow GeoInsight will host its fourth public meeting to update members of the Buzzards Bay community on the clean up activities related to the April 27, 2003 oil spill. More information is on our B120 Status and Announcements page.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

On Wednesday, September 29, 2004, GeoInsight will host its fourth public meeting to update members of the Buzzards Bay community on the clean up activities related to the April 27, 2003 oil spill. The first public briefing organized by GeoInsight was on November 12, 2003, the second on February 18, 2004 and the third on May 12, 2004.

GeoInsight is providing Licensed Site Professional (LSP) services to conduct and oversee response actions under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP). Richard J. Wozmak of GeoInsight is the LSP-of-Record for this incident. The purpose of the Public Meeting is to discuss ongoing response actions. The meeting will be held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in New Bedford. The Museum doors will open at 6:30 PM. There will be several exhibits set up for review and attendees will have the opportunity to speak with response participants. Formal presentations will commence at 7:00 PM. For additional information regarding the meeting, feel free to contact Kevin Trainer of GeoInsight at (978) 692-1114 or Jim Lawrence of MTI Network USA at (203) 406-0106, ext. 13.

Monday August 9, 2004

On August 3, 2004 Governor Romney signed landmark legislation that raises fines for oil spills, implements new safety standards, changes navigational rules, and imposes a two cent per barrel fee to establish a $10 million dollar fund for state and local oil spill response and training. We have updated our Oil Spill Commission page with information about the legislation.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

There has been an ongoing debate about the volume of oil spilled by the Bouchard No. 120 when it struck bottom near marker G1 at the entrance of Buzzards Bay on April 27, 2003. Although initial estimates in the days after the accident were that 14,000 gallons had spilled, the first reliable estimate was released in mid-May 2003 at 98,000 gallons. This estimate was based on ullage measurements (tank headspace and liquid volumes) taken April 28, 2003 on board the Bouchard No. 120, the day after the accident, by a firm called Caleb Brett Intertek.

In June 2003, however, a consultant for the Bouchard Transportation Company (Independent Maritime Consulting Ltd.) released a new report that evaluated the volume of oil delivered to Mirant, and the residual amount of oil collected from two vessels (B120 and B10) hot washed in a shipyard in New York, and other information, and concluded that the actual volume spilled in Buzzards Bay was more likely to be between 22,000 and 55,000 gallons. The 55,000 gallon estimate was generally picked up by the press as the likely volume spilled.

However, in our own report issued in February 2004, the Buzzards Bay NEP reviewed the Independent Maritime Consulting Ltd. report and found that it contained questionable assumptions and additional uncertainties relating to the methods used. Moreover, certain measurements were not made that added to the uncertainty. The Buzzards Bay NEP concluded that because of these uncertainties, many of which were associated with multiple oil transfers among several vessels and tanks that were later cleaned, the 55,000-gallon estimate was less reliable than the original estimate of 98,000 by Caleb Brett. The Project also found that measurements of remaining oil on the tankers and delivered to the Mirant power station were consistent with the 98,000-gallon total. The Buzzards Bay NEP further contended that the volume of oil spilled could have been considerably greater than the volume estimated by Independent Maritime Consulting Ltd. depending upon the amount of water contamination included in the oil delivery to the Mirant power station, a measurement not reported to the Coast Guard.

The Buzzards Bay NEP’s February 2004 report generated a response and further analysis from Independent Maritime Consulting Ltd. in March 2004, which was followed by further analysis by the Buzzards Bay NEP in April 2004.

This summer, the US Coast Guard Marine Safety Center in Washington DC reviewed all the aforementioned reports and correspondence. They concluded that the revised lower estimates of oil spilled as proposed by the firm Independent Maritime Consulting Ltd. did not include “methodologies or engineering practices that are more credible than the post casualty ullages recorded by Caleb Brett.” That is to say, the 98,000-gallon estimate of oil spill remains the most credible estimate of oil spilled in the absence of any new information. Click here to read the USCG June 29, 2004 Memorandum (208 kb) on the volume of oil spilled, or review our Oil Volume Page for a detailed explanation of the technical issues surrounding the spill estimates.

Friday, July 9, 2004

We have received from GEOInsight, the licensed site professional overseeing the final phases of the cleanup, an Immediate Response Action (IRA) Plan Modification for posting on our website, along with some companion figures. These are posted on our Status and Announcements page.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Congressman Bill Delahunt, USCG Mary Landry, and Massachusetts Senators meet to discuss oil spill planning in Buzzards Bay

On June 7, Congressman Delahunt, State Senator’s Robert O’Leary and Teresa Murray, Captain Mary Landry of the US Coast Guard, and officials from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) met at the Mass Maritime Academy to discuss the possible deployment of a “PORTS” (Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System) weather and current buoy system in Buzzards Bay. The PORTS technology could provide real-time weather, wave, and current information for Buzzards Bay, available through the internet. This could system could potentially reduce navigational accidents resulting from unusual weather conditions. The data could also be used to develop more sophisticated water circulation models for Buzzards Bay to better predict spill landfalls.

The ports system described would cost roughly $900,000 to deploy, with an additional $350,000 in annual operation and maintenance costs. These latter costs would be borne by local or state entities. It was acknowledged that successful utilization of the PORTS system would depend on its utilization by vessel operators, and the development of circulation models using the data collected

Thursday, June 3, 2004

On our Status and Announcements page, we have added additional graphics, maps and figures from GeoInsights Phase I and Phase II reports showing oiled ares, accident locations, oil surveys, degree of oiling, etc.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Massachusetts DEP has extended the public comment period to June 20, 2004 on Geoinsights “Tier 1A Permit application” for the Bouchard Barge B120. Go to our Status and Announcements to see the core sections of the report.

We have also posted on the same page the slideshow presentation from the GeoInsight’s Bouchard No. 120 public meeting held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on May 12.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

We have been requested by GEOInsight, the licensed site professional overseeing the final phases of the cleanup, to post two cleanup status documents on our website. Go to our Status and Announcement page for more details. The reports will likely be one of the topics discussed at the public meeting tonight on cleanup activity progress. The meeting will be held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum starting at 7:30 pm.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

On April 27, the one-year anniversary of the Bouchard No. 120 oil spill in Buzzards Bay, the state legislature’s Buzzards Bay Oil Spill Commission is scheduled to release proposed new legislation to help minimize future oil spills in Buzzards Bay. The legislation increases state fines, provides incentives for double hull vessels, and would require pilots on tugs pulling hazardous cargo. It would also establish a $10 million dollar fund for state oil spill protection and training measures. The state law would levy a 2-cent per barrel tax on fuel transported to create the fund. Read the New Bedford Standard Times story on the legislation.

Also today, a Fairhaven filmmaker, Arnold Parsons, will release a documentary about the Buzzards Bay oil spill. The film will be shown at the New Bedford Whaling Museum at 7 PM. The $10 dollar admission fee is to make copies of the film available to local schools and libraries.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

We have updated our shellfish closure maps page with the new information.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

As we noted previously, the cleanup costs reported last summer ($38 million) were estimates of expenses by Unified Command. Some of these estimated costs were realized, and others, particularly cleanup expenses by municipalities, were paid directly by Bouchard Transportation Company’s claims agent through the claims process established for the spill. This claims process was also used to pay private damages and loss of income of commercial shellfisherman. The cleanup costs also did not occur some smaller additional expenses into 2004. Bouchard’s claims agent has provided the Buzzards Bay NEP with updated cost information. As of April 19, cleanup costs have totaled $35.5 million, and claims have totaled $2.5 million. We have updated our oil costs page with the new information.

Friday, April 16, 2004

The Buzzards Bay NEP has posted a response to the Bouchard Transport Company consultant’s March 18, 2004 report. Go to our oil volume page to see our comments.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

On March 18, the Bouchard Transport Company submitted to the Coast Guard a rebuttal to the Buzzards Bay NEP’s February 2004 interim report on our evaluation of data on the volume of oil spilled in Buzzards Bay. Bouchard’s consultant stands by their June 2003 estimate of no more than 55,000 gallons spilled in Buzzards Bay. Go to our oil volume page to see their comments. Tomorrow the Buzzards Bay NEP will post its comments on the new information presented.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

We have been notified by GEO Insight, the licensed site professional overseeing the final phases of the cleanup, that the next public meeting on cleanup activity progress will be held on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum starting at 7:30 pm. Go to our Status and Announcement page for more details.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

We have added some satellite imagery from the day of the accident to our Accident Summary page.

Monday, March 29, 2004

We have added two new web pages. The first is an Oil Spill Costs page that explains the various monetary costs associated with this spill. The other is a page on the Criminal Case Settlement, which has the documents released relating to the legal agreement and criminal charges.

Thursday, March 4, 2004

We have added an Oil Spill Costs page to summarize all the costs associated with the Bouchard oil spill, and to compare those costs to some other spills.

Monday, March 1, 2004

Reminder: The Massachusetts Legislature’s Buzzards Bay Oil Spill Commission will hold its first public meeting tomorrow, March 2, at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, 7-9 PM

We have added some graphics to the oil volume page to better communicate the issues surrounding the problem.

Friday, February 20, 2004

We finally wrapped up some loose ends on our Past Oil Spills in Buzzards Bay page.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

On our Cleanup Status and Announcements page, has yesterday’s GEO Insight’s public meeting presentation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

On our Cleanup Status and Announcements page, we have added the February 2004 IRA cleanup plan produced by GEO Insight, the Licensed Site Professional (LSP) that is working with DEP to ensure that the remaining oil spill cleanup activities will comply with the Massachusetts Hazardous Waste cleanup law. This plan, and other information, will be presented at tonight’s public hearing in New Bedford.

Friday, February 13, 2004

We have added a new page on the volume of oil spilled to enable access to the Bouchard Transportation Company’s consultant’s report, which was provided to state and federal officials involved with the spill clean-up, and which contains their estimate of the volume of oil spilled. This page also has links to download the Buzzards Bay NEP’s review of their evaluation.

Monday, February 9, 2004

The state legislature’s Natural Resources and Agricultural Committee, chaired by Representative William G. Greene Jr., has set up a Commission to investigate potential state action to prevent future oil spills in Buzzards Bay. The Acting Chair of this Buzzards Bay Oil Commission is State Representative John Quinn of Dartmouth. The Commission will be composed of 11 State Reps, 5 Senators, and 4 non-legislative personnel, 2 of which will be appointed by the Governor.

The purpose of the special Commission is to study the ecological and environmental impacts of the oil spill in Buzzards Bay, and to investigate changes to laws and regulations to increase the safety of commercial barges traveling in state waters.

The Commission expects to hold three public hearings as follows:

  • Tuesday March 2nd – Whaling Museum, New Bedford
  • Thursday March 4th – Mass. Maritime Academy, Bourne
  • Monday March 8th – North Shore site TBA by Sen. Tarr

The Commission’s first meeting was February 5, 2004. Read the minutes of the meeting (pdf file). The Commission hopes to issue a report of its recommendations in April.

Friday, February 6, 2004

The day after the Bouchard No. 120 leaked oil into Buzzards Bay, government officials estimated 14,700 gallons of Number 6 oil were spilled. On May 21, the press reported that the Bouchard Transportation Company had concluded that the actual volume was approximately 98,000 gallons. This estimate was based on oil inspector reports while the damaged vessel was anchored in Buzzards Bay the day after the accident.

In May also, Bouchard contracted with a firm to evaluate all the data associated with the spill, including residual oil contained in the Bouchard No. 120, and another tanker, the Bouchard No. 10, which offloaded oil and water from the damaged vessel. This report relied heavily on the volume of oil collected when these vessels were cleaned in a shipyard in May. This report was completed in mid June, and concluded that only 22,000 to 55,000 gallons of oil was spilled. In late June, newspaper articles cited this report, and subsequently some officials and newspapers began using the 55,000-gallon total as the likely spilled volume.

Technically, however, the government never adopted a final spill volume, and the matter is still under investigation.

The Buzzards Bay NEP has reviewed the June 2003 report and found problems with certain approaches and methods, which call into question its conclusions. In addition, the Buzzards Bay NEP reviewed inspector’s reports from the two vessels before and after they delivered oil to the Mirant Canal Electric facility and found the volumes of oil and water in those inspector’s reports support a loss of 97,000 gallons of oil in Buzzards Bay.

Our interim technical report reviewing the available data is provided below. It is an “interim report” because it has been submitted to various agencies and parties for review.

The resolution of the volume of oil spilled has been difficult, in part because the amount of oil in two tanks on the Bouchard No. 10, which contained a “slop” oil and water mixture from the Bouchard No. 120, were never carefully evaluated. The Coast Guard has sent our report and other evaluations about the spill volume to the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Center in Washington DC. Based on this and other information, the state and federal government will eventually adopt adopt an “official” total amount or likely range of oil spilled in Buzzards Bay.

Go to our Oil Spill Volume page to read the report.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

It now appears that Bouchard No. 120 tank barge struck bottom just north of buoy G1 at the entrance of Buzzards Bay. We previously believed the barge struck near buoy C1, 2 miles to the north, near Hen and Chicks Reef. We have changed the information and map on our accident summary page.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

GeoInsight has notified us that the Bouchard No. 120 Oil Spill public meeting scheduled in New Bedford for tomorrow, Wednesday, January 28, 2004 has been postponed due to the expected snowstorm. The meeting has been postponed until February 18, 2004, at 7:30 pm. The meeting will still be held at the New Bedford Whaling museum and will cover the status of inspection and cleanup activities on the Bouchard No. 120 spill since the last update in November. The doors will open at 7:00 PM

Thursday, November 20

GeoInsight has notified us that another public meeting will be held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on Wednesday, January 28, 2004. The doors will open at 7:00 PM and a presentation will begin at 7:30 to discuss the status of activities since the last meeting.

Tuesday, November 18

On November 12, nearly all the remaining shellfish resource areas that were closed because of the oil spill were reopened to shellfishing. This New Bedford Standard Time Article (opens in new window) explains some of the issues that kept the beds closed. Our past updates page (see September 9), also includes a detailed explanation of the seafood human health issues surrounding this spill.

Even before this oil spill, we sometimes received queries from residents about oil on rocks or sheens that were believed to be from oil. Sometimes residents correctly identified oil pollution; sometimes they mistook naturally occurring blue-green algae on rocks, or naturally occurring compounds from the decomposition of algae. Hydrocarbon sheens in open areas might be the result of discharges from boat engines, fueling spills, or street runoff of stormwater. Naturally occurring sheens are most often found in the summer (periods of warm water), particularly in stagnant areas like salt marsh ditches, or protected pools of water, and are derived from decomposing plants and algae. Blue-green algal mats, which actually look black, occur as a thin film on rocks, generally in a one foot band on rocks above the mean high-water mark in Buzzards Bay.

To address mis-identification of naturally occurring sheens from decomposing algae and plants, or blue-green algae, GeoInsight has released an algae fact sheet (121 kb pdf file, opens in new window) that addresses this issue. While the fact sheet shows a somewhat atypical looking blue-green algal mat for Buzzards Bay, overall the fact sheet is accurate. [The sharp contrasts between the algae and the rock can occur because of periwinkle grazing, but usually the boundary is on the lower edge of the algal band which represents the limit where periwinkles crawl to the waters edge to scrape rocks. Our picture to the right is a little more typical of what you might see in Buzzards Bay.]

On November 12, GeoInsight, and state and federal officials gave an update at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on cleanup activities and the Natural Resource Damages Assessment related to the Bouchard No. 120 spill. We have posted their slide show presentation on this website. Click to see the November 12 public meeting slideshow

Thursday, November 6

We have added some additional documents form GeoInsight Inc. on our Cleanup Status page, including the September 15 IRA Plan.

Tuesday, November 4

Dr. Joe Costa, Executive Director of the Buzzards Bay NEP, has agreed to participate with state and federal agencies in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment. Dr. Costa is on the Aquatic Resources Technical Working Group which is reviewing water column, sediment, and shellfish tissue hydrocarbon contamination and impacts.

The Buzzards Bay NEP hopes to be working with the new cleanup contractors to provide public updates on ongoing cleanup activities. The lead company is called GeoInsight Inc, which took over the cleanup after the Command Center closed at the start of September. Cleanup activities now must follow the state’s Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention and Response Act (MGL 21e).

Today, Geoinsight released an update on cleanup activities. Open and read GeoInsight November 2003 Update (pdf file) in a new window. In their announcement, GeoInsight stated that a September 15, 2003 IRA plan was posted on the Buzzards Bay website. The Buzzards Bay NEP, however, has not yet received this document from GeoInsight, but will post it when we receive it.

GeoInsight also announced that next Wednesday, November 12th, in New Bedford at 7:30 PM, there will be a public meeting and update of the oil spill cleanup and NRDA process. Read this link of GeoInsight announcement (pdf file) of the November 12 public meeting at the Whaling Museum.

Tuesday, October 21

The Lloyd Center for Environmental Studies and the Tufts University Center for Conservation Medicine are seeking volunteers to help evaluate seabird mortality along the New England Coast. Last year, the Lloyd Center and Tufts University co-founded the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET). Volunteer surveys of area beaches will provide baseline information about causes of seabird mortality, from oil spills to disease. Volunteers who are willing to walk up to one mile of beach are needed to collect field data from 75 miles of shoreline in the towns of Westport, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Marion, and Wareham. The data will be collected at least once every month on the volunteer’s assigned beach, preferably during the same week each month. Anyone willing to make a one-year commitment by working as a SEANET volunteer is strongly encouraged Mr. Jamie Bogart at the Lloyd Center at (508) 990-0505 x23, or email Mr. Bogart at plover@thelloydcenter.org.

Thursday, October 16

Based on the announcement from the Division of Marine Fisheries to Buzzards Bay town officials (click here to read the announcement), we have updated our shellfish bed closure maps. Based on our own independent calculation, the closures due exclusively to potential threats of oil contamination in shellfish, now stand at 36,013 acres. This estimate is based on a few assumptions. For example, the DMF letter did not include openings in areas that were permanently closed like Allens Pond (BB6, permanently closed because of elevated fecal coliforms) or Little River, Dartmouth (BB9, a longstanding “management closure” area). For our calculations, we did not include such still-closed areas not specifically mention in the notice, although they did have oil contamination. Go to our Shellfish¬†Impacts page to see the maps.

We have updated the Impacted Areas page to include the oiling criteria used to characterize areas as heavy, moderate, and light oiling.

Wednesday, October 15

On October 10, 2003, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries rescinded the oil ban from 15 Shellfish Resource Areas in Buzzards Bay. These areas had been closed to shellfishing since April 28 because of the oil spill. Portions of some of these areas may remain closed due to bacteria levels as was the case before the spill occurred.

Today the New Bedford Standard Times article reported 52,000 acres were reopened, and that 48,000 acres remain closed because of continuing potential health concerns associated with the oil contamination. However, our own estimates were that nearly 90,000 acres of Buzzards Bay were closed through the summer, which would have left 38,000 acres closed after a reopening of 52,000. We will soon update our shellfish maps and try to account for the discrepancy.

Tuesday, September 16

The cleanup contractor corrected a few mis-classifications on the cleanup status report. Three sites had passed inspections, but their status change was not recorded in the database, and one segment (Mishaum Point) had not yet passed IRAC inspection, although it was shown to be passed on the map. We have updated the Cleanup Status page maps and graphics with these changes.

Thursday, September 11

We have updated the maps and information on the Cleanup Status page.

Tuesday, September 9

As has been reported by the press, no new oil spill-closed shellfish beds in Buzzards Bay have been reopened since May, a continuing concern to many shellfisherman (although most have filed financial claims, and have received payments for lost income). It now appears unlikely any new shellfish beds will be opened for the next several weeks. The reason for the delay is complicated, and not well explained in newspaper articles.

The crux of the issue actually goes back decades. In fact, when we wrote the Buzzards Bay management plan (CCMP) in 1991, the state was drafting PAH policies which we thought would apply to seafood. The policies were not finalized, and the delay revolves around what threat hydrocarbons in shellfish pose to human health, how to characterize complex mixtures of hydrocarbons in seafood, and how to establish acceptable risk levels needed to protect human health. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that there are few national regulatory standards for low level hydrocarbon contamination of seafood, and each state may adopt its own standards (particularly if interstate commerce is not involved).

While seafood inspectors reject conspicuously “tainted” seafood that may cause immediate illness (the human nose can detect fairly low concentrations of certain hydrocarbons), most states have not adopted low level hydrocarbon contamination standards that address risks of cancer associated with lifelong consumption of seafood. In the US FDA’s recently implemented Seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program (HACCP), contamination of seafood by hydrocarbon mixtures is not even addressed (the program addresses certain metals, pesticides, and classes of chlorinated hydrocarbons, like PCBs). In Massachusetts, in the absence of established federal and state standards and policies for low level hydrocarbon contamination, state officials find themselves simultaneously grappling with seafood safety issues revolving around the Bouchard No. 120 spill, together with the broader issue of hydrocarbon contamination found in many harbors and estuaries derived from boat engines, street runoff, atmospheric deposition of soot, and old creosote pilings to name a few sources.

Establishing contaminant limits

Federal and State governments have generally adopted a chemical-specific approach to regulating toxic compounds in the environment and in food sources. Under this approach, the concentration of a particular contaminant is applied to a specific numeric criteria or standard for that contaminant. For example, everyone agrees that lead in drinking water is not good for child health and development, and the US EPA has set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 15 parts per billion (ppb or ng/L) of lead in drinking water supplies. Similar drinking water standards apply to pesticides and hydrocarbons. For example, the limit for the pesticide Chlordane in drinking water is 5 parts per billion (ppb), and single hydrocarbon contaminants like benzene, a constituent in gasoline, has a limit of 2 ppb.

These standards are based on current knowledge of human health and scientific studies and adopted acceptable risk levels (ARLs. These recommended standards sometimes change over time as new health studies are published (nearly always lowering). For example, the drinking water limit for arsenic is currently 50 ppb, but the EPA has proposed changing the limit to 10 ppb by 2006. This proposed rule change has caused considerable debate because of the expected expense to municipal governments associated with removing low-level arsenic from water supplies in some parts of the country. This has lead to questions over the validity of the arsenic studies, and whether certain naturally occurring arsenic compounds pose the same risk as arsenic compounds used in laboratory studies.

Like drinking water, the EPA and the FDA have proposed certain contaminant levels in seafood. These “action limits” are generally higher than allowed in drinking water because the amount of seafood ingested is much smaller than compared to drinking water. For example, while the EPA limits Chlordane in drinking water to 5 parts per billion (Massachusetts limits are now 2 ppb), the FDA recommended a maximum Chlordane level in seafood of 300 parts per billion.

When it comes to oil spills, a standard for lifelong consumption exposure is considerably harder to adopt, because petroleum products are composed of hundreds or even thousands of individual compounds, and common oil mixtures like “No. 6” fuel oil are highly variable among refineries. Some of the individual compounds in these oil mixtures are not well studied. Because of this complexity and variability of petroleum mixtures, regulatory agencies do not use single “indicator” compounds (e.g. benzene) to assess risk. Rather, some measure of total hydrocarbon content and risk is evaluated instead.

Sometimes Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons are evaluated in seafood, but in evaluating human risks, it has long been recognized that not all hydrocarbons should be considered equally. For example, hydrocarbons associated with the combustion of oil and fuels (from autos, furnaces, etc., called “pyrogenic” hydrocarbons) are considered more carcinogenic than hydrocarbons from natural seeps, crude oil, or even refined oil products like fuel oil (called “petrogenic” hydrocarbons). Hydrocarbons composed of multiple fused six-carbon rings (called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, or PAHs, or sometimes called Polynuclear Aromatics) are also viewed as a greater threat to human health. One of these PAH compounds, called Benzo[alpha]Pyrene (BaP), is particularly carcinogenic, and has been well studied. One recent trend has been to characterize complex hydrocarbon mixtures found in seafood by assigning a BaP-equivalency to characterize carcinogenic risks associated with all the PAHs in the mixture. However, for practical reasons, BaP equivalency analyses are really based on only quantifying 14 specific PAH compounds that may be found in seafood.

Several states have used BaP-equivalency to evaluate seafood, or contamination after an oil spill, some have used Total PAH. What values of BaP-equivalency or Total PAH are considered “safe?” In different states, and in different oil spills, different values have been selected. Sometimes different standards are used in different species. Why is this the case? In the last decade, a very specific equation has been used to calculate the acceptable contaminant concentration in seafood. However, the calculated acceptable concentration limit depends on several assumptions used with this equation. The three key assumptions that health officials make that most affect the calculation of the action limit concentrations are as follows:

1) What is the Acceptable Risk Level (ARL)? For drinking water, the ARL often adopted is one cancer in one million over a 70-year lifetime for the average weight adult. However, for foods, states often adopt a lifetime risk of one cancer in one hundred thousand over 70 years.

2) How much seafood is consumed each month? Sometimes unlimited consumption is considered one 8 ounce serving every day. Sometimes 16 days of consumption per month are used. Few people consume this much shellfish, so lower average consumption rates may be used, which in turn will raise the acceptable concentration.

3) What is the BaP Cancer Slope Factor? This is a technical term derived from cancer and epidemiological studies, but health officials have a little flexibility in defining how conservative a measure this will be, which in tern affects the seafood action limit concentration.

Bottom Line Numbers

The methods discussed above relate to fish consumption advisories (how often an adult should consume a particular species). This discussion does not address the regulatory opening and closing of shellfish beds, which historically has only been prompted when there is an overt immediate health risk (e.g. avoiding sickness and death from pathogens or “red tide” toxins). In the case of finfish, to address life-long exposure issues, the trend among regulators during the past decade has been to issue health advisories as to how many meals of a particular fish species should be consumed each month. This helps many states avoid closing freshwater ponds to fishing because of high mercury or pesticides levels that exist in some areas. However, in the case of shellfish, which may be harvested in various “open ” areas, and sold to the public, there has been a strong desire by health officials to simply define areas open and closed to shellfishing, and avoid issuing health advisories on shellfish consumption. Because shellfish beds in enclosed embayments and harbors typically are closed first to bacteria before they show elevated hydrocarbon levels, and because shellfish do not have high lipid (fat) content which would bioaccumulate certain contaminants, the reliance on bacterial classifications to protect human health has been a reasonable policy.

One recent EPA seafood advisory recommended that health officials adopt a 6-ppm (parts per million) limit of PAHs for seafood. If this limit were adopted as the basis of shellfish bed open status, many harbors along the East Coast of the US would be closed to shellfishing, because, unlike fish, shellfish to not metabolize (break down) PAHs, and the compounds may bioaccumulate in their tissues. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, BaP-Equivalency advisory levels for subsistence consumers (using only a ten-year exposure period) were 3 ppb BaPE for salmon, 5 ppb BaPE for finfish,11 ppb BaPE for crustaceans, and 120 ppb BaPE for bivalve mollusks. Following the Kure oil spill, the California Department of Health Services adopted advisory action levels of 34 ppb BaPE for the average shellfish consumer and 5 ppb BaPE for frequent shellfish consumption. These levels were not used to establish the opening or closing of shellfish beds, and other values have been adopted by other states.

What will the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Division of Marine Fisheries establish as the standard to open and close shellfish beds due to the Bouchard No. 120 spill? Will that action limit have implications for unoiled bays in the Commonwealth affected by non-point sources of PAH? Will there be a lower threshold PAH consumption advisory level? These questions remain unresolved.

Whatever decisions are made, the public could find the decisions contentious or confusing. As noted in one NOAA publication: “The public wants to know whether the seafood is safe to eat; yet the answers given are typically posed in terms of ‘acceptable risk’ or ‘not a significant risk.'” The same document pointed out that Alaskan village residents became upset when it was pointed out that samples of smoked fish contained carcinogenic hydrocarbon levels hundreds of times higher than any shellfish samples collected from oiled beaches, and nearly 10,000 times higher than found in wild salmon. The report noted, “residents considered eating smoked salmon to be an acceptable, voluntary risk, and eating oil-contaminated seafood to be an involuntary, unacceptable risk.” Even the meaning of the analytical results can seem questionable when it was pointed out that the leafy vegetable Kale shows a PAH concentration (from naturally occurring plant compounds) three to fifty times higher than smoked fish. With this kind of information, the report concluded “risk comparisons should be made carefully.”

Additional Reading

NOAA Document: Managing Seafood Safety after an Oil Spill. A key document being used by health officials (1 MB pdf file).

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point site.

EPA mid-Atlantic study page showing EPA recommended tissue concentration limits used in issuing fish advisories.

Main EPA page on seafood safety and advisories .

Friday August 29

Because oil spill cleanup operations were winding down, and because of scheduled vacations, and various report and grant obligations of the Buzzards Bay NEP, we suspended updates on cleanup activities during most of August. We apologize if this caused any inconvenience to those tracking the cleanup operations.

In brief, during the last several weeks, most shorelines of Buzzards were cleaned and have met the IRAC cleanup goals. Next week, we will update our graphs and information to document this progress.

In fact, cleanup operations have gone so well that the Command Center in Mattapoisett will be closing today. The cleanup of the small number of beaches still requiring remedial work will be handled by private contractors (LSPs or Licensed Site Professionals) in the coming weeks. We will be posting new phone numbers and contact information for residents who may have concerns about specific areas.

No new shellfish beds have been reopened since May, which is a concern to many shellfisherman. A New Bedford Standard Times Article on August 26 discussed Congressman Barney Frank’s concern about the closure.

Yesterday, the US Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Providence had a “Hot Wash” meeting to discuss what went right and wrong during the cleanup operations and immediate response after the spill. The meeting was reported to have gone well, and there was a constructive discussion of what lessons were learned, and how that information can be used to better respond to future spills. We hope to post a summary of the meeting.

In the coming months, the Buzzards Bay NEP will focus more on the Natural Resources Damage Assessment studies to evaluate the environmental effects of the oil spill and public losses that will be the basis of financial damages and settlements resulting from the spill.

Thursday July 31

Since the end of June, shoreline cleanup plans have been released each Friday. The plans are now really a cleanup status report of all the shoreline segments of Buzzards Bay. We have been receiving hard copies of this status report, which we use to update our cleanup status graph, and our cleanup status maps. IRAC approved beaches are now approaching the halfway mark. Tides were unfavorable for inspections last week, and more sites should be reported in tomorrows Cleanup Plan.

After a beach meets IRAC cleanup goals, the responsibility for any new oil related problems identified on the shore is transferred to a Licensed Site Professional (LSP). The exception to this rule are Islands in Buzzards Bay (Elizabeth Island chain and Ram Island in Sippican Harbor, Marion), which have been transferred to an LSP while they await IRAC inspections.

Shoreline cleanup personnel now number 46, and these individuals have primarily focused on cleaning any problem areas identified during the IRAC surveys, if a beach fails inspection. As of Monday, total cleanup costs have totaled $38.7 million.

Tuesday July 22

Due to other obligations, the Buzzards Bay NEP has not covered recent Incident Command briefings. For the most part, cleanup activity remains focused on a handful of remaining beaches. In fact, all areas have had the status “Cleaned and in Maintenance,” but five segments have not passed IRAC inspections, so we list them as being cleaned. Shoreline cleanup personnel have dropped to 55 persons. During the past few weeks, the Operations section has been repairing any roads or fences damaged during the cleanup operations. On Ram Island in Mattapoisett, some salt marsh grass habitat (Spartina alterniflora) was restored during July 12-14. A similar salt marsh restoration is commencing on Long Island, Fairhaven. IRAC inspections continue. Last week, tides were unfavorable for many IRAC inspections, and areas inspected and approved were largely in Bourne and Falmouth. Our cleanup status page has been updated with the new cleanup status maps and graphs, as of the last Shoreline Cleanup Plan on July 18. Tides are more favorable this week, and more inspections should be completed this week than last.

As the cleanup winds down, the Buzzards Bay NEP will increasingly focus on other aspects of the spill, particularly the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), which will be ongoing for the next year or two. For the NRDA, we are currently working with Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management to review SCAT team survey information and data, and our own maps and notes, to document the full extent and degree of oiling around Buzzards Bay.

Monday July 14 Updates

This morning, Congressman William Delahunt held a public hearing on navigational safety in Buzzards Bay. Comments were received from the Coast Guard, the US Army Corps (which operates the Cape Cod Canal), local officials, citizen groups, concerned residents, a spokesperson for tank barge operators, and others. Congressman Frank noted at the outset that both he and Congressman Delahunt were in support of new legislation to speed up national requirements to ship oil in double-hulled vessels (the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 sets a deadline of 2015 for all vessels). However, they felt that such legislation did not appear to have the necessary level of Congressional support, and encouraged speakers to identify other navigational improvements that could be made to prevent oil spills in Buzzards Bay.

Congressmen Barney Frank and Bill Delahunt hold a public hearing.

Congressmen William Delahunt (left) and Barney Frank (right, seated) listen to comments by
Mark Rasmusssen (standing), Executive Director of the citizen group, the Buzzards Bay Coalition.

An Army Corps of Engineers representative noted that 1.9 to 2.0 billion gallons of petroleum products were shipped through the Cape Cod Canal in 2002. Of this, 81% of the vessels trips with petroleum product were through single hulled vessels. In 2002, 86% of the trips through the canal by Bouchard Transport, the company involved with the recent Buzzards Bay spill, were via single hulled vessels. This total contrasts sharply to the national average that only 33% of the tank barge fleet are single hulled vessels, as reported by the representative of the American Waterways Operators Association. In his comments to the Congressman, Mark Rasmussen of the Buzzards Bay Coalition stated that some European countries are now banning immediately single hulled vessels because of the Prestige oil spill on the coast of Spain last year. He noted that the Prestige was ironically transferred to Europe because that particular class of single hull vessel was being phased to double hull in the US. Mr. Rasmussen suggested European bans might result in more single hull vessels being used in the US. He also suggested that if recipients of oil shared some of the legal responsibility and liability of oil spills, this might prompt them to require oil deliveries via double hulls.

Most other comments focused on navigation issues. The point was made that Buzzards Bay was already a “Regulated Navigational Area” in which the First US Coast Guard District could promulgate rules. Several speakers pointed out that Massachusetts was one of the few states not to take advantage of establishing comprehensive pilotage requirements for navigation of vessels (including foreign ones) through coastal waters. Many vessels passing through Buzzards Bay are in transit to destinations other than Massachusetts ports, and consequently do not come under the existing state port regulations.

Westport Harbormaster Richard Earl noted that many accidents have occurred off the Hen and Chicks Reef off Gooseberry Point. He suggested that the Coast Guard adopt a rule requiring that vessels carrying hazardous cargo keep south of marker G1 and be confined to a shipping lane. He noted that tank barges could now choose a course closer to shore and the dangerous Hen and Chicks Reef. He also suggested that nautical chart labeling should be changed because there may be some confusion between the C1 and G1 markers.

Chief Francis of Fairhaven suggested that the Coast Guard review policies for defined “Anchorage Areas” on nautical charts, and whether those are the appropriate areas to direct damaged vessels leaking oil.

Several speakers and the Congressmen discussed navigational beacons on vessels. Currently these systems are already deployed on scallop boats to ensure they are outside of restricted fishing areas. The same technology could be used on oil tankers and tank barges to track their location, and notify the operator when they are outside of a designated shipping lane. Earlier however, the Army Corps representative noted that their traffic control jurisdiction extends only to the entrance of the Canal, at Cleveland Ledge.

Other topics briefly discussed included requiring tractor tugs, secondary tugs, and use of local pilots. The Congressmen encouraged those that did not have the opportunity to speak to submit comments in writing to their offices.

Friday July 11 Updates

IRAC inspections will continue next week, but tides are unfavorable, so the actual number of inspections completed next week will depend upon state, federal, and local personnel availability for the narrow windows of low tides and available sunlight.

On Monday, Congressman Barney Frank and Congressman William Delahunt will hold a public hearing at the New Bedford Whaling museum on navigation safety on Buzzards Bay. The meeting will be held at 10 A.M. at the New Bedford Whaling museum. Read this Standard Times’ article for more information. Another hearing will be held on July 28 to address compensation issues.

Oil tanker and tank barge safety in Buzzards Bay has long been a concern for the Buzzards Bay NEP. In our 1991 Management Plan for Buzzards Bay, the Preventing Oil Pollution Action Plan identified improved navigation and pilotage requirements as an important need to protect Buzzards Bay from future oil spills. In our 1999 Review of the implementation of the Buzzards Bay Management Plan, we concluded that many of the Preventing Oil Pollution Action Plan recommendations were met, including increased state pilotage requirements, and oil spills seemed less frequent. In 1999 we wrote:

With regards to reducing risks of spills, in the early 1990s, the Buzzards Bay Coalition aggressively lobbied for and was successful in initiating new pilotage legislation by Massachusetts, and also encouraged policy changes by the USCG. The Coalition also fought to keep a key navigation beacon in place in Buzzards Bay that was initially proposed for elimination by the Coast Guard. These changes now ensure qualified pilotage and safer transit through the Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay. In 1997, MCZM is promoting new state legislation more carefully regulating barge transport in Massachusetts’ coastal waters, and this legislation is pending.

It is difficult to determine the effectiveness of the pilotage and navigation changes. Clearly Buzzards Bay has not had the large spills that seemed to have occurred more frequently in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Improved municipal training will also be difficult to judge in the absence of a large spill but with regards to smaller spills, Buzzards Bay municipalities have already put the BBP funded equipment and their new training to work.

Two of the state legislators involved with the passage of the pilotage legislation in the 1990s, Eric Turkington of Falmouth, and John Quinn of Dartmouth wrote a recent opinion article noting that there were loopholes in that legislation that they and other state legislators want to fix. Read the Turkington/Quin Article ‘Buzzards Bay has suffered enough’ to understand how state legislators are trying to improve Massachusetts’ pilotage standards for Buzzards Bay.

Pilotage regulations is one area where states have the authority to regulate. However, the US Supreme court has decided that states have limited authority to regulate other areas of navigation. In 2000, the US Supreme Court threw out the State of Washington’s tanker navigation regulations because it was concluded that the state regulations were preempted by federal law and USCG regulations, which they felt already comprehensively regulated oil tanker operation and navigation. The shipping industry’s perspective of this decision can be read in an American Waterways article and the full US Supreme Court Decision is available at a Cornell University site.

If the primary responsibility of regulating tankers rests with the Coast Guard and Congress, and not the States, have any navigational rules and regulation improvements been proposed relevant to tank barge navigation in Buzzards Bay in recent years? Yes. In October 1998, the US Coast Guard First District (Boston) proposed rule making that would affect the transport of tank barges like the Bouchard No. 120. The proposed rule making, titled Regulated Navigation Area: Navigable Waters Within the First Coast Guard District addressed a wide range of issues. According to the Coast Guard,

the proposed rule would require four sets of measure for towing vessels and tank barges operating in the waters of the Northeastern United States, including positive control for barges, enhanced communications, voyage planning, and areas of restricted navigation. These measures should reduce the risk of oil spills from the many tank barges operating in the waters of the region, and so too reduce the risk of environmental damage to the unique and extremely sensitive marine environment.

However, after publishing the proposed rule making in October, in November, the US Congress passed Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1998, which enabled the USCG Commandant to immediately implement 4 out of 8 of the recommended rules for the northeast that regulated towing vessel and tank barge safety. It was felt the other rules would require changes in the national rules. The eight rules were actually originally based on ten recommendations made Regional Risk Assessment Team (RRAT), and were conveyed in the Regional Risk Assessment of Petroleum Transportation in the Northeast Territorial Waters of the United States, issued in June 1997. Some of the meetings for this group were at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay. The First District Commander, under authority delegated from the Commandant, adopted in December 1998 the final rule titled “Regulated Navigation Area: Navigable Waters Within the First Coast Guard District “1998 Federal Register vol. 63 No. 250 Pages 71764-71771. Some concerns and rule delays were requested by tank barge operators which can be read in this American Waterways article

Thursday July 10 Updates

Half of Buzzards Bay remains closed to shellfishing, and it now appears likely that no new shellfish areas will be opened in Buzzards Bay until the results are received of this week’s sampling of Buzzards Bay. Why has there been no new shellfish bed openings since May 22nd? While there have been a number of contributing factors, the state Department of Public Health is facing one of the biggest issues. There are no national guidelines or action limits for hydrocarbons in shellfish, particularly when dealing with the complex mixtures of hydrocarbons found in fuel oil. For some contaminants, like PCBs in bluefish, or mercury in freshwater fish, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issues advisories for consumption by children, pregnant women, or the general public (see the DPH fish consumption advisory website). For drinking water, Massachusetts DEP, has very specific limits for contaminants (visit the DEP drinking water page), but again a complex mixture of hydrocarbons were observed in oil contaminated shellfish. Complicating matters is the fact that shellfish in some harbors may show “background” concentrations of hydrocarbons from boating activity, past chronic spills, and even old creosote pilings. The complexity of this problem has resulted in different states handling shellfish bed closures after oil spills in different ways. Because of the very uneven degree of oiling, even in the most heavily oiled areas of Buzzards Bay, DPH seems to be erring on the side of public safety until they better understand the natural depuration of hydrocarbons in shellfish in the most heavily oiled areas.

Thursday 9 AM UC Briefing Notes

[author’s comments in brackets]

  • Most areas have been cleaned and put into continual maintenance or passed IRAC inspections. A few areas like the Brandt Island area of Mattapoisett continue to have mechanical cleaning. Shoreline cleanup personnel number 100.
  • IRAC inspections have been going well, and all inspected sites passed yesterday (vicinity of Gooseberry Point area of Westport to Dartmouth). [The BBP hopes to post an updated map tomorrow.]
  • Cleanup Officials are continuing to schedule meetings with Mattapoisett residents and associations in hard hit areas. Mattapoisett Fire Chief Scott and cleanup officials indicated they would be reviewing areas with beach and sand replacement. The Town of Fairhaven’s wetland consultant requested that the final beach elevation survey plan be prepared for the Long Island beach restoration site.
  • Wildlife officials reported two more oiled loons were found in New Hampshire, bringing the total to 7 or 8 oiled birds that may have migrated to northern breeding grounds. Wildlife officials will determine whether the birds will require capture.
  • The Logistics Section is working with residents to restore dirt road/cartway sites damaged by cleanup vehicles. One site has been restored, the strategy for the others will be developed after discussions with the property owners.
  • Today is the last day of the current round of shellfish tissue testing for hydrocarbons. Samples are being sent to a laboratory in Texas, and the results are expected by the end of next week.
  • Safety reported that there have been no injuries and no citizen volunteer activity was reported.
  • The Finance Section Chief reported that to date, 476 claims have been filed, and cleanup costs are estimated to total $37.0 million.

Monday July 7 Updates and UC Briefing Notes

Cleanup officials were pleased that the July 4 holiday weekend passed with few complaints or issues arisng from the cleanup operations. In fact, most residents are reported to be pleased with the cleanup progress. There was also hope that some new shellfish resource areas will be opened by next week.

Monday 9 AM Briefing Notes

[author’s comments in brackets]

  • The July 4 holiday weekend passed without any significant oil-related problems reported. Other than the few beaches that are still being actively cleaned, cleanup crews are responding to occasional reports of oil on rocks, oil buried in sand, or a bather oiled by a tar ball. [The location of buried oil in one case could not be identified because it was based on second hand information. If residents discover any oil buried by shifting spring sands, it is important they call the Command Center or town officials with a precise location so cleanup crews can remove it.]
  • IRAC inspections began 6:00 AM this morning in Dartmouth, taking advantage of the early morning tides. [The IRAC inspections by the Coast Guard, Massachusetts DEP, and town officials represent an approval of beach cleanup to agreed upon goals. Many IRAC inspections are expected this week because of favorable tides. Go to our IRAC page for an explanation of cleanup goals.]
  • Last week, Fairhaven Fire Chief Francis requested an inspection of Angelica Rock off Wilbur Point, Sconticut Neck based on reports of oil from residents. Incident Commander Dave Barry reported that inspectors found tar ball splatters on the rocks this weekend, and said cleanup crews should have the small Island cleaned this week.
  • Cleanup Officials have been continuing to meet with Mattapoisett residents from the Crescent Beach area [one of the heavier oiled areas in Buzzards Bay], and with officers of the resident association to address their concerns.
  • Additional shellfish tissue testing will be conducted this week (roughly 55 samples will be taken). The Division of Marine Fisheries is awaiting a final review by the Department of Public Health before opening any new shellfish areas based on the last round of sampling.
  • Logistics reported that the main project this week will be the demobilization of one of the command center trailers, and some equipment.
  • The Finance Section Chief reported that to date, 464 claims have been filed, and cleanup costs are estimated to total $36.5 million.
  • 101 persons are detailed to shoreline cleanup this morning.


Captain Landry at Unified Command

After this morning’s briefing, US Coast Guard Captain Mary Landry (Federal On Scene Coordinator) and Incident Commander Dave Barry (right) of Gallagher Marine (and representing the Responsible Party Bouchard Transportation), begin a Unified Command meeting and conference call with state and federal officials on cleanup activities and progress.

Thursday July 3 Updates and UC Briefing Notes

There will be no new shoreline cleanup plan issued this week, because there were no IRAC inspections because of unfavorable tides during the week. A new plan will be issued next week. It is likely a few beach segments durinng this week were reclassified from “Ongoing Cleanup” to “Maintenance” or “Ready for IRAC”.

Thursday 9 AM Briefing Notes

  • There are 175 Shoreline cleanup workers scheduled today. Operations reported that mid-day high tides are hampering cleanup efforts, but work schedules are being adjusted to take advantage of lower tides where practical. They have been responding to a few calls of oil on rocks. For the holiday weekend, cleanup personnel will be reduced to 24, with shifts beginning early in the morning to take advantage of lower tides.
  • Fire Chief Francis of Fairhaven requested an updated copy of the IRAC sign-off list.
  • Logistics Chief Howard Hile reported that the only significant projects ongoing are a fence repair at Barneys Joy, and demobilization of some heavy equipment.
  • Tom O’Shea (MA Fish and Wildlife) noted that only one oiled bird had been found since June 18 when bird recovery responsibilities were transferred to the state’s Fish and Wildlife Buzzards Bay field office. He also noted there was some light oiling observed on terns on Penikese Island.
  • The Finance Section Chief reported that to date, 461 claims have been filed, and cleanup costs are estimated to total $36.2 million.

Monday June 30 Updates and UC Briefing Notes

There is a general sense among cleanup officials that we are at a turning point in the cleanup response, and major cleanup actions are winding down. In the coming weeks, the Operations section will work to get areas ready for IRAC inspections which could continue well into August.

UC Briefing Notes

[author’s comments in brackets.]

  • Operations Chief Joe Ledbetter noted major cleaning in most areas will soon be finished, and most Hotsys work should be terminated soon. Most areas will therefore put in the “Treated and in Maintenance” category. Cleanup crews will continue to monitor and cleanup these areas as needed while awaiting IRAC inspections by DEP and the Coast Guard. Total shoreline cleanup personnel detailed today is 177. [Cleanup crews have been recently reduced appreciably on weekends, partly because of beachgoer activity. This weekend, 58 personnel were detailed were deatailed to shoreline cleanup.]
  • Cleanup workers will no longer be wearing their distinctive Tyvek suits in areas that have been cleaned and are in the “Treated and in Maintenance” category. Instead, workers will wear only gloves. The Safety Officer approved the change because of the light oiling remaining in these areas.
  • The meeting with Fairhaven residents on Friday was characterized as going well, and residents were reported pleased with the cleanup progress. Fairhaven Fire Chief Francis was thanked for helping organize the event. Chief Francis was also told the small amount of buried oil discovered on the West Island beach had been removed.
  • Because of mid-day high tides this week, and the July 4 holiday, there will be no IRAC inspections until July 7. Logistics is trying to ensure that cleanup activities do not interfere with any planned local holiday events.
  • Restoration of the dirt roads in the Barneys Joy area is nearly complete, and residents were reported pleased with the work. Mass Audubon is helping select a seed mix for the planned reseeding operation. Some cow fencing will soon be repaired, and some Piping Plover warning wires will be moved.
  • Surveys are being planned to evaluate beach elevations at the three beach replacement sites.
  • As of yesterday, cleanup costs were estimated to total $35.8 million, and 452 claims have been filed.

Friday June 27 Updates

If a new shoreline cleanup plan was issued today, we will post it here on Monday. On our cleanup status page, you can now download a more detailed version of the status map. We have also added an IRAC segment map which may be useful to some. The new Download Data link at the top of this page is provided to assist in more readily exchanging data sets among planners, agency representatives, and consultants working on the spill cleanup.

Thursday June 26 Updates and UC Briefing Notes

After a cold rainy spring, summer instantly arrived this week, and the hot weather has brought crowds to the shore. Most schools let out last week in Massachusetts, and many summer residents will arrive in the next week. For many residents and visitors, this will be there first exposure to the oil spill. For the most part, the cold weather worked in favor of the cleanup crews, giving them a chance to clean most areas before the summer crowds arrived.

We have updated IRAC inspection status to yesterday’s (June 25) close of business. We have also updated our status maps and created a GIS database that precisely matches the shoreline cleanup plann’s segment status. Eight new areas were added, and our status map. If the beach inspections and approvals continue at their current rate, when would all IRAC inspections be complete? The graph below shows a continuation of current trends, which would suggest that beach inspections could continue until mid September. However, it is likely that IRAC inspections will speed up with time, so it is possible an earlier date could be achieved.

Original projection of cleanup time to completion.

The picture below is an “after” shot of the new cobble and boulders placed in an area near Crescent Beach in Mattapoisett. Compare it to the photo of the area excavated first shown in the June 19 notes below. Camera angle is slightly different. We will see if we can find a picture of the original oiled rock field.

Crescent Beach, Mattapoisett restored.Crescent Beach, Mattapoisett oiled.


Thursday 9 AM Briefing Notes

[authors comments in brackets]

  • Unified Command is developing a 30-day operating plan in light of the more routine cleanup operations that will continue into the summer.
  • Operations section Chief Joe Ledbetter reported that the recent hot weather has released some oil trapped in cracks and crevices in heavily oiled areas. This was expected, but the amount of oil released was reported to be less than expected. For example, new oiled material on Barneys Joy amounted to a “baggie” size bagful. These heavily oiled areas still require some “wipe and toss,” Hotsys work, and other cleanup techniques. He noted that cleanup crews are working hard to clean any remaining bathing beach areas, but with the hot weather, cleanup crews will avoid the more crowded beaches during weekends. About 190 persons remain detailed to shoreline cleanup. The Brandt Island, Mattapoisett area is one of the biggest cleanup challenges remaining.
  • Tiny rice size granules of oil remain a nuisance to bathers in some areas. This prompted a discussion of information packets and baby oil distribution among the towns. Fairhaven Fire Chief Francis noted that in his town, the information and baby oil sample bottles are provided at Town Hall, where beach stickers area sold, beach parking lots, and at life guard stations. He noted the fire department and police department also had some of the baby oil bottles.
  • Roll-off waste containers will soon be removed from the Fairhaven West Island Town beach. Fire Chief Francis said he would notify the public works department so they can schedule the re-grading of the parking lot. [The spring re-grading of the parking lot for resident parking was postponed this spring because the site was used as a staging area for cleanup operations.]
  • Roads near Barneys Joy that were rutted during the wet spring because of cleanup vehicle traffic will be regraded and restored. Similar work can be expected soon at other sites.
  • IRAC inspections were reported to be going well and 3 out of 4 sites passed yesterday. [These were in the area of Aucoot Cove. The one site that failed was a 100-foot stretch of beach at Peases Point, and cleanup crews will return there.] The Operations Section has implemented a pre-IRAC inspection program to identify problem areas. State On Scene Deputy Coordinator Rich Packard asked that an advance schedule be developed for IRAC inspections so that the designated municipal officials can have adequate advanced notification.
  • The safety section chief reported no injuries, but heat stress is now a concern. Heat stress prevention techniques include adequate hydration of workers before startup, short shifts on Hotsys, and breaks in the shade when required.
    Mr. Hastings.
  • Mark Rasmussen reported no citizen volunteer activities.
  • Wildlife reports that one of the rehabilitated birds had difficulties, was recaptured, treated at Tufts Veterinary school, and then later released. The bird mortality total on the board is 460, with 1 bird currently in rehab.
  • The number of claims filed total 448. Cleanup costs to date are estimated to be $35.0 million.
  • There was a brief discussion of the meeting scheduled for 7 PM Friday for Fairhaven residents at the Hastings Middle School (30 School Street) to discuss the oil spill cleanup status. click here to open MapQuest directions in a new window.).

Wednesday June 25 Updates

The only new items on our web site today is an updated cleanup status map based on last Friday’s Cleanup Status report, and some updated graphics. At tomorrows briefing we are expecting many new shoreline areas to meet cleanup goals. Still, based on the rate of recent inspections, this process may likely continue well into the summer.

Tuesday June 24 Updates

Last Friday’s shoreline cleanup plan is now posted. It appears that last week many areas that were classified as “Ready for IRAC” were reclassified as “Treated and in Maintenance.” This probably reflects a reevaluation of sites last week prior to calling for the Coast Guard and DEP IRAC inspections. The plan also identifies areas where additional cleanup is required.

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has received and is reviewing shellfish tissue samples for hydrocarbon contamination. The results for many areas was favorable, but residents should not expect any new shellfish bed openings until after the July 4 holiday weekend.

IRAC shoreline inspections have been ramped up this week to take advantage of favorable tides. Municipalities are allowed up to two representatives to join agency inspectors. Any area that fails inspection must have cleanup crews return to address problems identified.

Monday June 23 Updates

The Buzzards Bay NEP did not attend this morning’s briefing. It is our understanding that the work on Crescent Beach has been completed or is nearly complete. Shoreline cleanup personnel now number 185. There has been no change in shellfish bed classifications. A new shoreline cleanup plan was issued on Friday. We have not yet received it, but we should have it posted on Tuesday. Tides were unfavorable at the end of last week for IRAC inspections, but more inspections should be completed this week, given the late morning to early afternoon low tides.

One of our recent challenges has been to develop graph that adequately conveys the status of the cleanup. Today we changed the cleanup status graph above so it shows the number of segments instead of the number of miles. We changed this measure because the IRAC (cleanup) classification segments include many unoiled areas, so the measured miles of coast in each category is misleading. The IRAC shoreline cleanup segments actually total 2 to 3 times the actual number of miles oiled (93 miles had some level of oiling). By counting the number of segments (there are 115 segments with oil of 157 tracked), instead of miles in each category, we also avoid the bias from large classification segments. For example, the lightly oiled Naushon Island, which totals 22 miles (entire perimeter), had less than a mile of shoreline actually oiled.

Thursday June 19 Updates and UC Briefing Notes

This mornings Unified Command briefing was rescheduled to 9:00 AM. Yesterday’s briefing summary was updated with information from the Command Center. Unified Command briefings will be reduced to Monday and Thursday mornings at 9 AM or as needed.

According to press accounts, the Bouchard Transportation Company issued a press release earlier this week stating that they had commissioned an independent evaluation of the volume of oil spilled by the Bouchard No. 120. According to Bouchard, the new analysis suggests “a good probability exists that the amount of oil was not more than 39,000 gallons.” The analysis was included in a report provided to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has not publicly commented upon the findings presented in the report.

Thursday 9 AM Briefing Notes

Crescent Beach
  • Wildlife reported 1 dead loon on Block Island, bringing the total to 460 birds dead. An oiled loon in the Sagamore area may be captured today. The one remaining Loon in Rehab may be released today in Lakeville. US Fish and Wildlife has asked Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife to collect and process all new reports of dead birds or other wildlife.
  • Hotsys cleaning is ongoing near Brant and Crescent Beach. Stone and cobble removal and replacement commenced on a portion of Crescent Beach this morning. Shoreline cleanup personnel posted at 281. Some rock replacement may occur at Brant Beach later this week or next.
  • Finance reports 6 new claims yesterday (5 of which were loss of income).
  • Three new beach segments now meet IRAC cleanup goals. The areas include portions of Great Neck Wareham, Aucoot Cove, Marion, and Little Bay, Fairhaven. IRAC inspections may be suspended the remainder of this week because of unfavorable tides. A few recently inspected beaches did not meet IRAC guidelines. FOSC Captain Landry requested that cleanup crews conduct one final assessment before IRAC inspections are requested. SOSC Rich Packard suggested that IRAC inspections focus on some lightly oiled areas on the eastern shore of Buzzards Bay away from the more dynamic areas on the western shore. Cleanup officials have continued to meet with shoreline residents and neighborhood associations.

Wednesday June 18 Updates and Briefing Notes

The Command Center has moved to its new location at the Mattapoisett Fire station and nearby trailers. The 8 AM briefing today and tomorrow has been shifted to 11 AM because of the time of high tides. The Buzzards Bay NEP did not attend today’s briefing, but it was reported to us that three segments along the east shore of the Wareham River were IRAC inspected, and meet cleanup goals. The areas were Long Beach, Wareham River East, and Minot Beach, which add another 6.1 miles to the approved clean area total. DMF has not yet received results from last weeks shellfish tissue testing for hydrocarbons. No shellfish openings are expected until the new data is reviewed. Fairhaven’s Executive Secretary reported to us that they have suspended selling shellfish permits.

Additional information provided by the Command Center:

  • OPERATIONS:Operations have been restricted by the tides. The operational period today will be from noon until 8 p.m. Work in Long Island and other areas is going well. Some hotsys breakdowns have restricted operations in some areas. As a result, extra hotsys will be on hand to use in the case of a breakdown. There was a conservation meeting in Mattapoisett yesterday and all permits are in place to start Crescent Beach tomorrow.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL:Three segments were inspected yesterday and found to meet the IRAC requirements. [see revised cleanup status maps.]
  • WILDLIFE:Community members are reminded to report any live or dead oiled wildlife to 571-283-2578. One oiled loon still remains in rehabilitation. Three plover clutches were found yesterday and a total of five more are expected.
  • LOGISTICS: The Command Post has made a successful transition to the new Command Post in the Mattapoisett Fire House. The new phone number is 508-758-2368 and the fax number is 508-758-2384.
  • FINANCE:1 claim was withdrawn yesterday, bringing the total to 425. The cleanup costs are estimated at 32.8 million.
  • SAFETY:No injuries yesterday. All personnel were warned of impending thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon.
  • UNIFIED COMMAND:The Unified Command briefs will be conducted on Mondays and Thursdays at 0900 hours until it’s determined to do otherwise.

Tuesday June 17 Updates and Briefing Notes

We will be adding example photographs to the “IRAC” cleanup goals page. Also, please see our updated Cleanup Status Map.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • Operations: The reoiling seen yesterday was significantly less than the reoiling seen this weekend on Barneys Joy, Dartmouth, and in Mattapoisett, reinforcing the idea that the oil seen on the weekend was associated with the spring high tides that occurred. Because of high tides early in the morning this week, cleanup crews are scheduled currently from 12:00 noon to 8:00 PM. IRAC inspections are also being moved to late in the day, and some command center briefings will be moved to work around the tide schedule. [High tides are approximately 50 minutes later each day.]
  • Beach replacement is nearly finished in Fairhaven, and town officials were reported to be pleased with the final conditions. Beach profiles appear to be maintained, and the site will be resurveyed next week after the beach has settled over several tidal cycles. Operations will return if further work needs to be done.
  • Beach replacement is hoped to start on Thursday in Mattapoisett at Crescent Beach. The Mattapoisett Conservation Commission must still meet and issue a permit. [Crescent Beach may be the only other beach replacement site that will have the scale of work as the Long Island site. We previously reported up to seven sites would have sediment replacement, but at some of the sites, like the one on West Island, needed only the removal of surface cobbles by hand, and scraping of the entire beach surface with heavy equipment appeared to be unnecessary.]
  • The Massachusetts DEP is coordinating with each affected town to have a representative participate in the IRAC surveys for beaches in their respective towns. [Go to the “IRAC” cleanup goals page to see the standards used.]
  • On the board, cleanup personnel are posted at 294.
  • The Logistics Chief has released information on the new command center, including the new phone (508-758-2368) and fax numbers (508-758-2384).
  • Finance reports that cleanup cost estimates now total $32.5 million. Claims now total 426.
  • Wildlife officials reported that Roseate Terns in Buzzards Bay are projected to hatch Thursday or Friday, and another clutch of Piping Plover will soon hatch on Barneys Joy. The one bird in Rehab may be released today. The Wildlife Rehab Center may soon be decommissioned and individual tasks for wildlife delegated to several area non-profits.
  • Roughly 5000 informational packets will be distributed to affected Buzzards Bay area city and town halls for beach distribution. Additional packets could be prepared later in the summer depending upon demand. The packets contain oil spill information and baby oil to remove tarballs from skin.

Monday June 16 Updates and Briefing Notes

A new shoreline cleanup plan dated June 13 will be posted today.

We have posted a new Cleanup Status Map.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • Operations: What was characterized as a “very minor amount” of new oil was reported in Mattapoisett and Gooseberry Point, Westport this weekend. It is believed the very high spring tides this weekend contributed to the remobilizing of some oil.
  • Shoreline cleanup personnel will be continuing Hotsys operations and maintenance operations. A crew of 6 has been detailed to maintenance cleaning on Ram Island. Snare boom will be removed from the New Bedford hurricane barrier. Officials continue to meet with residents and associations to discuss cleanup activity. Inspection teams will be visiting additional sites today to determine compliance with the IRAC guidelines. The Long Island beach replacement is going well according to the Fairhaven’s Conservation Commission representative and a consultant hired by the town. On one section of the beach, the restoration is still waiting for pea-stone size material to stabilize the shore. One section still needs to be excavated. Cleanup officials assured the town representatives that work would continue until the town is satisfied with elevations and materials. Beach replacement at Crescent Beach Mattapoisett may begin on Thursday.
  • On the Board, it was posted that 7520 cubic yards of oiled material has been collected, but this total does not include oiled rock and gravel removed during operations. Cleanup personnel are posted at 292.
  • Entrix hauled out 12 lobster pots with snare boom attached on Friday to document the extent of submerged oil. Only 1 of the 12 pots had any oiling which was characterized as very light.
  • The Logistics Chief reported that the Command Center will move Tuesday night to its new location on Rt. 6 Mattapoisett. The command center will be comprised of two trailers and additional space in the Mattapoisett Fire Station. New phone numbers will be announced in a press release.
  • Finance reports that cleanup cost estimates now total $32.0 million. No updated claims total was available this morning.
  • Wildlife officials reported that Roseate Terns in Buzzards Bay are projected to hatch later this week. A few tar balls washed ashore on Ram Island with this weekend’s spring tides, and wildlife flagged the locations for cleanup crews. Once these are cleaned up, some maintenance on the Island could be suspended in light of the projected hatchings. [On the board, total bird mortality stands at 459 dead, with the breakdown, 180 captured, 1 in rehab, 18 released, 302 dead on arrival, and 157 died in facility.] An injured loon was found. The injury was not oil related, and wildlife officials transported the injured bird to Tufts Veterinary School.
  • The Coalition announced that Professor Dennis Nixon of URI will be speaking tonight in the New Bedford at the Public Library at 7 PM. [The title of the meeting is “Discussion of Compensation Issues Related to the Bouchard-120 Oil Spill in Buzzards Bay”.]
  • Informational packets will be distributed to affected Buzzards Bay area city and town halls. The packets, which contain oil spill information and baby oil to remove tarballs from skin, are expected to be distributed by the municipalities at lifeguard stands, where beach stickers are sold, and at beach parking areas.

Friday June 13 Updates and Briefing Notes

Four additional shoreline segments now meet immediate response cleanup goals (IRAC guidelines), bringing the total to 10.47 miles.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • Operations: Work continues on the sediment and rock removal and replacement on Long Island, Fairhaven. Work could be completed as early as Sunday. Regular cleanup and maintenance work continues around Buzzards Bay. More areas will be inspected for compliance with IRAC guidelines.
  • Small amounts of oil continue to wash ashore at Barneys Joy. Warming waters are believed to be releasing some oil attached to rocks. Today Entrix will haul out 12 lobster pots with snare boom attached to document the extent of submerged oil.
  • Entrix sent out a dead cetacean (probably an Atlantic White Sided Dolphin) to a laboratory for a necropsy, but the carcass is not believed to be oil spill related.
  • Wildlife officials reported more Piping Plover eggs were hatching around Buzzards Bay. One dead gannet carcass was found, bringing bird mortality to 457. Two days ago, oiled horseshoe crabs were brought to the wildlife center. [Horseshoe crabs come ashore to mate in the intertidal during spring tides (new and full moons) in June around Buzzards Bay.] They have been unable to catch the oiled loon in Allens Pond, or an oiled eider.
  • Mark Rasmussen of the Buzzards Bay Coalition and SOSC Bob Donovan stressed that it is important that all agencies and personnel record any dead animal finds during operations and report the information to the Command Center.
  • Mike Hickey of DMF said results from this weeks shellfish samples would not be received until next week. He also indicated they were examining some dead bluefish to determine if their death was oil related.
  • The Coalition will run its newspaper thank you add next Wednesday. They anticipate additional demand for the shoreline information packet with baby oil samples. Logistics stated they hand 3/4 of a ton of 4-ounce baby oil bottles onsite, ready to distribute.
  • There are 343 shoreline cleanup personnel detailed today.
  • Logistics Section Chief reported that due to phone system hookup delays, the move of the Command Center has been delayed until Tuesday night June 17. A press release will be issued with the new Command Center phone numbers.
  • The finance section chief reports that 422 claims have been received, and estimated cleanup costs now total $30.7 million.

Thursday June 12 Updates and Briefing Notes

Yesterday there was a meeting in New Bedford about the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process that has commenced for the Bouchard No. 120 spill. The Buzzards Bay NEP will be adding a sub-page explaining the NRDA process, with updates on activity. This webpage will include links for relevant information.

Areas meeting cleanup (IRAC) guidelines have risen to 4.63 miles because of the addition of the North Side of Scraggy Neck, Bourne.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • The deputy Chief of Operations reported that 4-6 truckloads of clean cobble have already been added to Long Island, Fairhaven as part of the beach replacement there. Another two yards of clean material will be added today, then crews will commence removing oiled cobble from one remaining stretch of beach. Work on Long Island could be complete by Sunday or Monday. [This is the only beach replacement in Fairhaven. Work crews will likely move on to the sites in Mattapoisett next week.]
  • Both Operations and Safety Section Chiefs noted that considerable media went to Long Island after the NRDA meeting and press event in New Bedford. So many were there that it interfered with operations. There will be a Fairhaven police detail to ensure that the hardhat and work boot requirements are met for access to the construction area. Reporters can still take pictures outside of the construction area, or inside the construction area if done in a safe manner. Fairhaven Harbormaster Gary Golas was thanked for arranging the town support for the operation.
  • Safety reported one burn injury from a Hotsys. The injury was not severe, but the worker was sent home for the day.
  • Entrix [Environmental Consultant] lead Jerry Hall reported they will be retrieving 12 snare covered lobster pots on Friday that were deployed at Barneys Joy as part of their ongoing operation to identify any submerged oil. The last round showed light to medium oiling on some of the lobster pots. Chain dragging and lobster pot testing has ceased elsewhere in Buzzards Bay because those tests have turned up no oil. All testing is currently focused on characterizing the submerged oil near Barneys Joy. [Submerged oil has only been found in the Barneys Joy area.].
  • Because of Piping Plover hatchings, mechanical cleaning on Barneys Joy has ceased, and the number of shoreline cleanup personnel will be reduced.
  • There are 343 shoreline cleanup personnel detailed today and 4.63 miles has now been signed off (North side of Scraggy Neck).
  • Logistics Section Chief reports that there are still delays in the phone company setting up new lines for the planned new Command Center site in Mattapoisett. The move planned for Friday may be delayed.
  • The finance section chief reports that 416 claims have been received, and estimated cleanup costs now total $30.2 million.
  • Now that finals are over, some Mass Maritime Cadets attended this morning’s briefing to learn more about the Incident Command System. Yesterday some Coast Guard personnel from MSO Philadelphia were present as well.
  • Wildlife officials are awaiting the latest reports about plover hatchings in Buzzards Bay. So far three plover chicks have at Barneys Joy. There will be an attempt to capture 1 oiled Eider and 1 oiled Loon that have been reported. One oiled Terrapin turtle [a Massachusetts endangered list species] was brought to the wildlife center.
  • SOSC Bob Donovan noted that a new shoreline cleanup plan has been released [see link above.]

Wednesday June 11 Updates and Briefing Notes

In this morning’s briefing, an important milestone was achieved when Bob Donovan, Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection announced that the state had made its first sign-off of a cleaned area, Horseneck Beach in Westport, a length of about 3.2 miles. Altogether 93 miles of Buzzards Bay shoreline were characterized as oiled to some degree, including areas with sporadic tarball landings. This action means the beach meets the cleanup criteria specified in the Immediate Response Action Cleanup goals or IRAC. As noted by Mr. Donovan’s comments in the briefing below, signed off areas will continue to be cleaned if new tarballs arrive. The IRAC specifies cleanup goals agreed upon by MA DEP, the USCG, and the Responsible Party (Bouchard). The IRAC covers various shoreline types including “Heavily Utilized, Public Recreational Sand Beaches,” “Less Utilized, Semi-Public and Private Sand Beaches,” as well as mixed sand and gravel, rip rap, groins, docks, and rocky area cleanup recommendations.

Some state and federal agency staff were preparing for today’s noontime meeting at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on the Damage Assessment phase of this oil spill. The meeting is being hosted by US Senator John Kerry, and state Senator Mark Montigny.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • Chief of Operations, Joe Ledbetter, was very pleased with yesterday’s progress, and the warmer weather and mid-day low tides are very favorable to cleanup. Work on the Long Island oiled beach removal and replacement was “going wonderfully.” The excavation and removal of oiled materials was continued yesterday. The excavation released some trapped oil that was captured on snare boom. New clean stone has been ordered and will soon be delivered.
  • On West Island, Hotsys work was also productive, a mechanic was detailed to the site and the equipment was characterized as performing optimally. Other cleanup actions like rock “wipe and toss” and tarball pickup was also proceeding on the site.
  • The warm weather yesterday caused the release of some pockets of oil trapped in rocks and jetties at some heavily oiled sites that are being cleaned. Characterized as “bleeding of oil,” the Operations Chief said this was expected as the weather warms, and is a good thing, because they find trapped oil that may have been missed. These areas are limited in size, often a small portion of a jetty or rock field. Areas where some of this seeping oil was cleaned included Neds Point (Mattapoisett), Planters Island, and Butlers Point (Marion). Wherever this new oil is found, it is cleaned and snare boom is being applied to the rock crevices.
  • Wherever Piping Plover are hatching, mechanical cleaning such as Hotsys and use of vehicles on the shore ceases, and work crew numbers are reduced to ensure the safety of the hatchlings. Residents of Barneys Joy, a plover nesting area, will notice this reduction in cleanup activity.
  • DEP Deputy Director Bob Donovan, State On Scene Coordinator for the cleanup operations, announced that the state “signed off” on the cleanup of one area of Buzzards Bay: Horseneck Beach [segments 4 and 5, 3.2 miles]. Mr. Donovan stressed that this action by the state means only that this beach meets the cleanup criteria specified in the Immediate Response Action Cleanup goals or IRAC. He also stressed that this action does not mean the state or Coast Guard will not take further cleanup action on the beach, and any new appearances of tarballs will be cleaned. Mr. Donovan acknowledged that for the type of area approved [a very lightly oiled sandy beach], it was relatively easy for all parties to come to agreement on the success of the cleanup. He cautioned, however, that meeting the immediate response cleanup goals [IRAC] for other areas like rock and cobble areas may not be so easy to achieve, and that the Commonwealth will not sign off any beach unless it meets the cleanup criteria.
  • There are 357 shoreline cleanup personnel detailed today. A total of 6,698 cubic yards of oiled material has been collected to date.
  • Cleanup teams discovered much of the oil sitings reported at Penzance Point in Woods Hole was old oil from some earlier spill, and not oil from the Bouchard No. 120. A few spots of Bouchard No. 120 oil were found at the Knob at the entrance of Quissett Harbor in Falmouth, and these were cleaned.
  • Wildlife officials reported that many Plover chicks have hatched on Gooseling Beach in Rhode Island, an area that had very light oiling impacts. More Piping Plover chicks are expected to hatch at nesting sites around Buzzards Bay. One new oiled dead loon was reported today.
  • Logistics Section Chief reports that the phone company will only be able to connect 2 of the 12 required phone lines to the planned new Mattapoisett location for the command center. If the phone company cannot complete the new connections by the weekend, the move of the Command Center planned for Friday may be delayed.
  • The finance section chief reports that 412 claims have been received, and estimated cleanup costs now total $29.7 million.
  • Mark Rasmussen, Buzzards Bay Coalition Director stated that, on the Unified Command’s request, the Coalition will be placing newspaper thank you ads, listing all the volunteers who have worked on the oil spill cleanup.
  • The Coalition will host a lecture by Dennis Nixon of URI at the New Bedford Public Library Monday June 16 at 7 PM. Dr. Nixon will speak on his experiences with the North Cape oil spill at Moonstone Beach RI.
  • The information officer noted this mornings press reports about the launching of a criminal investigation of the accident by the US Attorney.
  • Yesterday, the Unified Command met with Tri-State Bird Inc., and the many volunteers that worked with Tri-State to save oiled birds. The Unified Command thanked them for their hard work. Although the number of birds that survived was less than the original goal set, one success story was that the bird rescuers were able to save some loons, a species that is characterized as very hard to rehabilitate. [More than half the birds that died were Loons.]
  • Safety Officer Brian Gallant again reminded agency staff wear hardhats at the Long Island site because of the excavation and heavy equipment in use.
  • USCG Captain Mary Landry, Federal On Scene Coordinator for the cleanup operations, read a poignant letter that she received from a summer resident arriving at Buzzards Bay. The woman who wrote the letter explained that her daughter was walking along shore. Before she realized it, her daughter had fallen into the water and was also apparently choking on candy. Coincidentally, Safety Officer Gallant was at the site overseeing cleanup operations. He observed the child’s fall, and promptly rescued her from the water, and dislodged what she was choking on. The resident stated that although the oil spill was not a good thing, she greatly appreciated the presence of the safety officer and thought he deserved a medal. Gallant received a round of applause from the Command Center.

Tuesday June 10 Updates and Briefing Notes

In this mornings briefing, the beach stone excavation and replacement work which began yesterday on Long Island, Fairhaven was discussed. According to Fairhaven Harbormaster Gary Golas, the Fairhaven Shellfish Warden (Dan Costa), and a wetlands consultant hired by the Fairhaven Conservation Commission to supervise the work (in addition to the Licensed Site Professional normally present for hazardous waste cleanups) were present at yesterdays work. Click on the picture below to see more pictures of the beach sediment replacement work. The pictures taken were taken yesterday (June 9) late afternoon after excavation had ceased, and the incoming tide had covered the excavated area.

Long Island in Fairhaven, MA


8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • Chief of Operations, Joe Ledbetter, was very pleased with yesterday’s progress, and looks forward to today’s warmer weather because it softens the oil, and makes it easier to clean up. This week, mid day low tides are facilitating cleanup. Cleanup crews were using 30 hotsys yesterday around the bay, and there were few breakdowns [one area “looked like a steam bath”]. There are 357 shoreline cleanup personnel detailed today. A total of 6,353 cubic yards of oiled material has been collected to date.
  • The first day of work on Long Island went well [see our photos]. Excavators removed a lot of oiled material [we observed 3 haul outs filled with oiled cobble]. The work remobilized some oil which was trapped by boom and absorbents. Clean stone is being delivered today.
  • Crews on Penikese found areas with new oil or tarballs. Cleanup crews will clean the areas today. In Falmouth small tar balls, and some larger oiled rafts of material were found on Penzance Point and the Knob in Quissett. Most of the oil was in the form of occasional small tarballs, but some larger mats were also found. Overall, Falmouth has been one of the lightest oiled Buzzards Bay communities. In April, the town was extensively surveyed, and detailed surveys of beaches were conducted in May, with additional spot checks of the town. The oiled areas were discovered as part of a new detail SCAT survey of more remote areas of Falmouth. The survey teams and cleanup crews will clean the area and expand the search today.
  • Wildlife officials reported that the first three piping plover chicks had hatched on Barneys Joy today. Many other chicks are expected to hatch soon. Two of the eggs were in a nest in which the male had some oil on his plumage, and transferred some oil to the eggs. There was much relief that these chicks–a US endangered species–had hatched. The cleanup teams have been working with wildlife officials to minimize environmental impacts. With chicks hatching, cleanup crew will keep a greater distance from the nesting areas. The chicks typically fledge in 45 days. Wildlife officials may seek to capture a previously reported oiled Loon outside the area. There have been no additional bird mortalities.
  • Logistics reports that the Command Center will be ready for a move on Friday night to its new Mattapoisett location.
  • The safety officer requested agency staff wear hardhats at the Long Island site because of the excavation and heavy equipment in use. In a rare request because of recent weather, the use of sun block was requested for all outdoor crews.
  • Mike Hickey of MA Division of Marine Fisheries reported that shellfish samples were collected for testing yesterday, and other sites would be sampled again today. Results are not expected until next week. [No new shellfish beds will be considered until the results are received.]
  • The finance section chief reports that 410 claims have been received, and cleanup estimates now total $29.2 million.
SCAT map from June 10, 2003.

Shown in pink are oiled areas that have been treated and are in maintenance. The miles in this category are no longer being calculated, but the BBP will attempt to track this information based on the status reported in the shoreline cleanup plans.

Monday June 9 Updates and Briefing Notes

Past oil spills in Buzzards Bay: Just how many gallons were really spilled?

Bouchard No. 120 is really the second largest spill for Buzzard Bay

Do you think it is difficult to estimate the volume of an oil spill? Well in the case of the 1969 Florida barge oil spill, and the Bouchard 65 spill in 1974; keeping straight the final estimated volume of oil spilled has proved next to impossible. The official final estimates for both these spills are different than what has been widely reported. An upshot of this is that the recent Bouchard No. 120 spill is in fact the second largest spill since the 1969 Florida spill, not the third largest, as we previously reported.

The Buzzards Bay NEP first reported the Florida oil spill as 183,000 gallons, based on our 1991 Management Plan, and then revised it to 175,000 in the interim, because numerous other sources reported the smaller quantity as the volume of the spill. However, the actual volume of the spill appears to have been 189,000 gallons. In the case of the first Bouchard 65 spill in 1974, (there was a second Bouchard 65 spill in 1977), the volume spilled was likely to have been between 11,000 and 37,000 gallons (we are still trying to get a good source of information), but far less than the 165,000 gallons previously posted. Click here to read more details.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • Because of mid-day low tides, cleanup is expected to go well this week. In Fairhaven, Hotsys now number 15. Hotsys will also be deployed elsewhere [including Mattapoisett, Marion, and Dartmouth]. The Chief of Operations has brought in more mechanics to handle the added number of Hotsys around the bay, and to minimize downtime from equipment failure. [These hot water wash systems require a lot of attention and maintenance.] Altogether, 356 personnel are detailed to shoreline cleanup.
  • Cleanup crews will be working to remove small areas of tarballs on Penikese Island (Gosnold) and Converse Point (Marion).
  • Long Island beach sediment removal and replacement will proceed this week.
  • Weather: Seas of 1-3, but chance of thunderstorms. [the light seas or rains will not impede operations, but whenever thunderstorms arrive they impede boat surveys and shoreline cleanup.]
  • There was no wildlife report today. The Operations Section, wildlife officials, and Audubon volunteers continue to work together to minimize impacts to plover habitat during cleanup. No chicks have yet hatched.
  • The Logistics Section reported that the Command Center move should proceed as planned for this weekend. By next Monday, personnel and equipment will be at the new location on Rt. 6 in Mattapoisett a short distance from the fire station. This weekend, the field decontamination station was moved off the Mattapoisett Town Wharf, and now resides at the Mattapoisett DPW facility.
  • The Finance Section reported that claims were up to 408 as of Friday. Cost estimates were not calculated yet this morning.
  • On Wednesday, June 11, from 12:00 to 2:00 PM at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, US Senator John Kerry and state Senator Mark Montigney will host a meeting to explain the Natural Resource Damage Assessment phase of this oil spill.

Friday June 6 Updates and Briefing Notes

In light of yesterday’s meeting in Fairhaven described below, Captain Mary Landry (Federal On-Scene Coordinator) and Bob Donovan, MA DEP (and the State On-Scene Coordinator) both stressed to the assembled agency teams and contractors that they needed to better communicate to residents the cleanup progress being made. Because of confusion over the terms used in the Shoreline Cleanup Plan, the document will be revised and updated to better summarize the progress being made. They stated it was important to provide the public with clear and better organized information, to better address their concerns, and to ensure residents are satisfied with the flow of information.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • Weather: west wind diminishes to 10-15 knots seas 1-3, and generally weather and tides are improving, though there may be some rain this weekend. Tides will be more favorable for cleanup beginning next week.
  • Yesterday was characterized as productive and segments in Fairhaven were reclassified as “Treated and in Maintenance.” These areas included Popes and Manhattan beaches.
  • About 25% of the work in Fairhaven now involves hotsys (hot water wash). The 11 hotsys systems in use in Fairhaven will be increased to 15 next week. The hotsys are being used in Mattapoisett and Dartmouth as well.
  • The operations section is waiting for the permit approvals from all agencies involved for oiled beach gravel and cobble removal and replacement. Work is tentatively scheduled to start Monday of next week (probably areas on Long Island, West Island, and Crescent Beach will be tackled first). The work will probably proceed by first removing large boulders on beaches to a beachside decontamination area. After the large boulders are removed and cleaned, heavy equipment will be used to scrape the “pavement” (term for the hardened oil-sand-gravel mixing covering these areas). New clean stone and cobble will be placed of similar size and type, then the cleaned large boulders will be returned.
  • Yesterdays test of a particular wash solution did not prove as effective as hoped. This washing solution may be retested on a warmer sunny day when the oil is more fluid. The washing solutions that are being tested will only have expanded use if they are found to be more effective than the Hotsys and other techniques being employed.
  • Two SCAT teams are deployed today. One is surveying areas along the Elizabeth Islands by boat. The second team is in the Brandt Island Mattapoisett area.
  • As requested by the Town of Fairhaven, the buried oil at West Island beach was removed in advance of the Boy Scout camp this weekend.
  • Cleanup officials met with Fairhaven residents and town officials on West Island yesterday. Some residents were concerned about the fact that the posted shoreline cleanup plan [on this website] indicated that some beach inspections were completed by June 1, but the residents felt that the plan was not accurate. Some were also frustrated by the pace of cleanup, or did not understand whether the cleanup had been completed or would be ongoing at a particular beach. Some town officials felt that only fifty people detailed to the town that day was inadequate, although it was later determined that in fact 87 were detailed to the town for shoreline cleanup.[While some of the issues raised appeared to have been addressed during the meeting in Fairhaven, the outcome of the meeting prompted much internal discussion at this mornings briefing. The Chief of Operations noted that tremendous progress has been made in Fairhaven in the past few weeks. Some areas, like the cleanup of the marsh on Long Island had been delayed because of decision-making on how to handle the sensitive area, not that it was overlooked. At the Unified Command meeting later this morning, some of the issues (especially communication with the towns and residents and reporting measures of success) were to be further discussed.]
  • Fish and Wildlife officials are coodinating with Mass Audubon on scheduling monitors for areas where there are hatching piping plovers.
  • A new shoreline cleanup plan will be posted.
  • USFWS and USCG met with a resident of Mishaum Point. They explained that the cleanup operation on one portion of the beach is being suspended due to plover nesting, but will resume in July.
  • Logistics report that equipment for rock removal and new hotsys will arrive on time for next weeks operations.
  • Operations is looking at alternative strategies for cleaning a rocky stretch along Mishaum Point. Maintenance crews are visiting Ram Island (6-12 going out today) for maintenance.
  • Today 354 personnel are detailed to shoreline cleanup. As of yesterday, 6,223 cubic yards of oiled material had been collected.
  • Cleanup costs are estimated at $27.5 million to date, with 392 claims filed
  • One bird is in rehab and two new dead birds were found, raising the total to 456 dead. Oiled birds that died in Rehab went out for post mortem analysis.

Thursday June 5 Updates and Briefing Notes

Captain Landry referenced this morning’s article in the Cape Cod Times, which published the transcript of communication between the US Coast Guard Woods Hole Group and the captain of the Carl Rey, a tugboat that reported seeing an oil slick. The transcript also included communication between the Woods Hole Group, and the captain of the Evening Tide, the tugboat towing the Bouchard No. 120 barge. The Cape Cod Times obtained the tape under a Freedom of Information Act request to the Woods Hole Group. Captain Landry indicated that the US Coast Guard Providence Marine Safety Office (MSO) is conducting the casualty investigation, and cannot comment on the published transcripts.

For an oil spill on Buzzards Bay, the captain of the vessel must immediately report the spill to the Providence Coast Guard MSO office. The Woods Hole Group, which monitors radio traffic in Buzzards Bay, and responds to emergencies, is not directly involved with the accident investigation. This Coast Guard station often receives Freedom of Information requests for communication transcripts from their station when there is an accident or incident at sea.

Those following the accident should read the CCT article and the published transcripts. To help readers better understand the article, we have prepared the map below based on the published information. One apparent error in the article is that buoy BB is incorrectly described (parenthetically) as being “the buoy that marks the entrance to Buzzards Bay.” This is incorrect. BB is on a line between Wilburs Point, Fairhaven and Pasque Island, 1/3 of the way into Buzzards Bay.

Map of the Bouchard No. 120 oil spill site.

We wish to stress that the Buzzards Bay NEP is not involved with the investigation, nor privy to any unpublished details. The map shown is our own interpretation, and may not be correct. The transcripts give only a partial picture of events because no times are given, and because it does not include communications between the Evening Tide captain and the Coast Guard’s MSO Providence office, which did occur according to the Carl Rey captain as noted in the transcripts.

On the first day of the spill, there was considerable confusion about the location of the accident. Some confusion may have arisen because oil spills in Buzzards Bay are reported to Providence Coast Guard office, not to Woods Hole. Additional confusion may have been created by the fact that Massachusetts Agencies include all of Westport’s shoreline as part of the “Buzzards Bay” watershed for practical reasons (read this 2000 letter- 700 kb pdf). However, for navigational purposes, the demarcation between Buzzards Bay and Rhode Island Sound on nautical charts is a line drawn between Gooseberry Point and Cuttyhunk Island. Thus, half the waters of Westport are in fact in Rhode Island Sound. It has been widely reported that the barge grounding occurred at Hen and Chicks Reef (a boulder field off Gooseberry Point). Hen and Chicks Reef is principally in Rhode Island Sound using this demarcation. Buoy BB is 10 miles from Hen and Chicks and 4.5 miles from Anchorage Lima.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • The weather will be rainy today, then clearing, and there will be no small craft advisories. Thus all planned boat activities and surveys will likely proceed.
  • SCAT teams in boats will examine sites in Bourne (Rocks off Scraggy Neck), Falmouth, and Elizabeth Islands, and some isolated areas near Brandt Island, Fairhaven.
  • Entrix reported that additional lobster pots with snare boom will be deployed in the Gooseberry Point to Barneys Joy area, and some new chain tows of snare may be conducted today in the same area in the search for submerged oil. Rocks near the Hen and Chicks reef are also going to be inspected for oil.
  • Today 352 personnel are detailed to shoreline cleanup. As of yesterday, 6,168 cubic yards of oiled material has been collected. An increase in surface oil was recorded on the board, but this included solvents and other material generated during the decontamination of the skimming vessels. The official tally for oil skimmed will likely remain 3,500 gallons.
  • Cleanup costs are estimated at $26.9 million to date, with 388 claims filed. The breakdown of claims remains similar to previously reported including 157 claims for loss of earnings from fisherman, 42 claims for increased cost of operations, 36 for oil on boats, 34 personnel property damage, and 92 real property damage.
  • A surface washing agent is being tested for effectiveness this afternoon in Fairhaven.
  • Some new areas may soon be classified as “cleaned and in maintenance.” These areas could include 6 or 7 segments in the town of Mattapoisett. No areas have yet been “signed off” by the state.
  • The move of the Command Center to Mattapoisett has been delayed because the phone company cannot provide the necessary communication lines until next Thursday. A move would likely occur on a weekend so as to minimize delays in cleanup operations.
  • No new dead birds have been found.
  • The Coalition’s volunteer coordinater said that their volunteer beach cleanup initiative will involve 9th grade students from New Bedford High School tomorrow. This program is for a beach litter cleanup, not an oil cleanup, but will give the students the opportunity to locate tarballs to report them to the Coast Guard. The students will pick up litter on West Beach along Clarks Cove which received “very light” to “light” oiling.

Wednesday June 4 Updates and Briefing Notes

Because of news reports about the replacement of stone on beaches, the Coast Guard has received some phone requests from residents to replace oiled stones at their beaches. The Coast Guard has explained to these residents that removal and replacement of stone is a cleanup method of last resort used only on the heaviest oiled sites. In certain areas, a large quantity of oil came ashore, mixed with sand, gravel, and cobble, sometimes in a layer several inches thick. Cleanup officials characterize this accumulation as “pavement” because the intertidal areas, quite literally appears to have been paved with asphalt. In these areas, some of the “pavement” was hand removed with trowels, but this has only limited effectiveness. It was determined the best solution for these heavily oiled areas was complete removal of the stone-gravel-oil layer and replacement with new stone and gravel of a similar kind.

Only seven sites around Buzzards Bay have met the criteria for this level of cleanup. All sites cover less than one acre. Furthermore, any potential site must have heavy equipment access, and the access of equipment cannot damage sensitive habitats or create erosion problems. The US Army Corps of Engineers, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the town Conservation Commission must all agree on the suitability of the site, equipment used, and the composition of the replacement materials. Later we will provide additional details of the wetland permitting process.

In today’s updates, you will note a large increase in the number of dead birds. The US Fish and Wildlife in collaboration with the MA Fish and Wildlife office, has been storing and keeping the inventory of birds killed. Apparently during the past few weeks, one to a few dead birds may have been found on particular days, but not reported to the Command Center, which has been keeping an independent unofficial tally. We have reported the Command Center totals on this webpage. The US Fish and Wildlife is the definitive source of information on bird mortality, and we have upgraded our graphs with their new totals.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • The permitting of beach stone and gravel replacement is proceeding. The Army Corps permitting (“general permits” for each less than 1 acre sites) should be issued today or tomorrow. A meeting on the Fairhaven sites will be held with Town officials on West Island tomorrow. Both the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Wampanoag Tribe have also been involved with the process to ensure that no shoreline archeological sites are disturbed during the activity, and a representative of the Wampanoag Tribewill be onsite during excavations of material.
  • The weekend’s nor’easter washed up a small quantity of new oil in the area of Barneys Joy and Gooseberry Point, but for the most part cleanup crews are focusing on cleaning rocky areas and a few oiled marshes. They are also using a beach sand “fluidization technique” to remove buried oil (see new pictures at the bottom of our cleanup methods page).
  • There will be 355 persons detailed to shoreline cleanup today. Mid-day high tides this week has slowed the cleanup activity somewhat, but the chief of operations has scheduled early startups and midday breaks to make the workdays as productive as possible. MA Fish & Wildlife has requested a cessation of cleanup activity on Penikese because of bird nesting. In some areas, plover chicks may be hatching in a matter of days. Vehicle access (in some areas ATVs were being used) will cease in sensitive nesting habitat, and smaller work crews operating only on foot will be placed in these areas.
  • A new Incident Action Plan has been approved for the week, which is very similar to last week’s. The 12 priorities listed include “identify mobile tarball strandings and quickly cleanup,” test and possibly implement surface washing agents, and identify locations of submerged oil.
  • Because of gusty winds, and small craft warnings, SCAT team surveys planned for the Elizabeth Islands have been postponed.
  • In light of findings of submerged oil around Barneys Joy, 12 lobster pots with snare boom attached and additional chain tows between Gooseberry Point and Barneys Joy will proceed when weather conditions improve.
  • Both EPA and DMF have concurred on the locations and suitability of surface washing agents to be tested for effectiveness. Final approvals for their testing and use should be imminent.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife has updated its statistics on the spill. The official total stands as follows: 454 birds dead (299 DOA, 155 died in the rehab facility of the 177 captured), 18 returned to the wild, and two are in rehab. The previously released loon that we reported to be tangled in fishing line was captured, which explains the one bird decrease in released bird category, and one bird increase of birds in the rehab unit. [A total 29 different species were included among the dead birds, but most of the individuals were Common Loons or Common Eiders. Wildlife officials have sent two dead Roseate Terns (a US endangered species) to a US Fish & Wildlife laboratory in Ashland, Oregon for study and determination of cause of death.]
  • Cleanup costs are estimated at about $26.4 million to date, and 386 claims have been filed.
  • The West Island Town Beach has been cleaned of oil and Fairhaven Fire Chief Francis reported yesterday the Boy Scout campout will proceed this weekend as planned. Operation Chief Ledbetter said he will ensure the site will be “spick and span” for the event.

Tuesday June 3 Updates and Briefing Notes

As noted in the briefing notes below, cleanup officials have been meeting with Mattapoisett and Fairhaven Conservation Commissions and Selectmen on the permitting of stone and cobble replacement on certain beaches. In speaking with Chief Francis of Fairhaven after this morning’s briefing, he indicated that yesterday, the Conservation Commission requested the presence of a Licensed Site Professional to oversee the work to ensure that the beach profile is maintained, and no erosion problems are created. Chief Scott of Mattapoisett indicated that Mattapoisett would likely follow suit. Both indicated that their towns would likely issue any required permits in time for the planned work. Massachusetts DEP also has the authority to issue emergency certifications for the work.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[Author’s comments in brackets]

  • US Fish and Wildlife reported a dead Roseate Tern on Ram Island. The bird showed evidence of light oiling, and the bird has been turned over for investigation. [We believe three Roseate Terns have now been found dead to date, 2 with evidence of oil, however, none of the deaths have been officially attributed to the oil spill. Impacts to the Roseate Tern, a US endangered species, will be an important consideration in the damage assessment phase of the accident.] This was the only new dead bird found, raising the total to 419. One bird remains at the Rehabilitation Center.
  • Shoreline cleanup personnel were reduced to approximately 380 persons yesterday. The reduction in number reflects in part the fact that there is less need for manual labor in the cleanup. [For example, rocks were “polished” with snare boom by hand, and loose oil readily adheres to the boom. However, in areas already cleaned in this way, there is diminished effectiveness of the hand polishing of rocks.] At the same time, there is a need for an increased number of mechanical cleaning systems (Hotsys), so next week more Hotsys will be shipped into the region to take advantage of favorable tides. There is an adequate number of personnel to operate the new units.
  • Hotsys will be in use on West Island, Brandt Point area, and elsewhere today. This week is difficult for the cleanup because of mid-day high tides, and crews must work around these because oiled rocks are in intertidal areas. In one area, oil is being raked and hand picked from a fringing marsh.
  • Cleanup on Penikese Island, near Cuttyhunk, is continuing with a small crew because of nesting terns on the Island. Only three cleanup personnel have been detailed to this sensitive resource area. Oiling has been characterized as light, and state and federal wildlife personnel requested the small number of cleanup workers because of the nesting birds, including some endangered Roseate Terns. [In the first 48 hours of the spill, oil slicks and sheen were seen in and around Penikese, leading some to believe the Island had been heavily oiled, but when SCAT teams arrived later, they found that little of the oil had in fact washed ashore.]
  • The search for the hook-snared loon in Lakeville (reported yesterday and believed to be an oil rehabilitated bird) was abandoned when it was reported the bird untangled itself, but a new report came in late yesterday that the bird still had some fishing line around it, so there will be a new attempt today to capture and disentangle the bird.
  • Shoreline profile stakes had been placed at several oiled locations prior to this weekend’s storm. Because of the storm, 6 to 12 inches of sand accreted at Round Hill, Dartmouth, whereas 2 inches was lost from Barney’s Joy. These observations are helping the environmental unit identify areas where buried oil might be found. The storm also washed up some small amounts of fresh oil and tar balls at Barneys Joy. These new landings will be investigated and cleaned up. SCAT teams will be further surveying areas on the Elizabeth Island chain.
  • The Environmental Unit received its first results for submerged oil. Three areas were evaluated in the first round: 1) between Brant Island, Mattapoisett and West Island, Fairhaven, 2) between West Island and Wilbur Point in Fairhaven, and around Barney’s Joy Dartmouth. At the three sites, lobster traps were deployed with snare boom attached, and multiple tows were made dragging a chain on the bottom with snare boom attached. [Number 6 oil readily adheres to snare boom.]. The tows and lobster pots all came back negative. However, at Barneys Joy, all the lobsterpots, and 2 of the 7 tows show evidence of light oiling or some tarballs. With these results, the environmental unit will now focus testing around Gooseberry Point. [The area off the Point is known as the Hen and Chicks Reef. Refer to the May 28 Briefing for more information about possible submerged oil.]
  • Final permitting issues are being worked out for the four sites in Mattapoisett and Fairhaven for rock removal and replacement. These sites include Crescent Beach, Howards Beach, Balsam St. Beach, and Long Island. Another meeting is planned for Thursday with the Fairhaven Conservation Commission.
  • The environmental unit could begin testing some environmental cleaning solutions as early as tomorrow if all approvals are obtained. Depending up the results and evaluation criteria, the use of these cleaning agents could be expanded.
  • A new Incident Action Plan is being developed, but it is expected to be very similar to the one currently in place.
  • Cleanup costs are estimated at about $26.1 million to date, and 380 claims have been filed.
  • The logistics of the Command Center move are being worked out, and should be resolved by week’s end. The new Command Center location will be on Rt. 6 in Mattapoisett, near the Fire Station.

Monday, June 2, 2003 Updates

There is an irony from this morning’s briefing that one of the rehabilitated and released oiled loons may have been subsequently tangled in fishing line. Unfortunately, tangling in fishing lines is a risk faced by sea birds. Fisherman should of course never leave behind fishing line. Sometimes a hook and line breaks underwater, and then later washes onto shore. If you come across fishing line while walking on a beach, do a good turn, and pick it up and safely dispose of it.

We will update the status maps today.

8 AM Briefing Notes

  • There were 433 shoreline cleanup personnel on Saturday, but due to the severe storm conditions on Sunday, including thunderstorms, most had the day off. The Chief of Operations noted this was for the best in that they needed a day off, and they would return to work today refreshed and sharper. Some cleanup crews were out yesterday, and out since 6 A.M. this morning. These teams have reported no new tar ball landings or oilings. Cleanup crews received a report that some buried oil may have resurfaced due to shifting sands from the weekend storm near Mishaum Point. This will be investigated today.
  • What is believed to be one of the rehabilitated oiled loons was reported to be in Great Quittacus Pond in Lakeville, with a fishing hook in it mouth, and line on its neck [all rehabilitated and released birds have been tagged]. Wildlife officials will search for the bird this morning and try to capture the bird and remove the entanglement.
  • One task that had to be completed yesterday was the removal of Snare Boom near Barneys Joy. US Fish and Wildlife officials were present to ensure nesting birds were not affected. Buzzards Bay Coalition volunteers will also be assisting today to help keep birds away from areas being worked.
  • Fish and Wildlife reported that two or three porpoise carcasses were found near Sakonnet Point, Little Compton, Rhode Island. At least two were badly decomposed, and there was no evidence of oilings. Fish and wildlife officials will investigate today and try to determine the cause of death.
  • Many of the cleanup statistics had not been updated this morning, but oiled material collected totaled 5903 cubic yards by Saturday.
  • The weather forecast for today is highs in the seventies but with gusty winds NW moving to SW.
  • Three new dead birds were found over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 418, but other statistics were unchanged. One bird remains in the rehabillitation unit.
  • Cleanup costs are estimated at about $25.6 million to date.

Friday May 30, 2003 Updates

An article of interest was published in yesterday’s Sentinel, a weekly newspaper serving the Towns of Marion and Mattapoisett. Of note in the article was that the Mattapoisett Natural Resource Officer, Kathy Massey, had found a dead newborn seal pup (unoiled, umbilicus attached) two weeks ago at Crescent Beach. A week earlier, Ms. Massey found an adult in the same area, which was characterized in the article as “oil soaked.” The article left the impression that the adult seal died of oiling, however, the Buzzards Bay NEP knows of no seal death that has been officially attributed to this oil spill. Because it will be very important in the damage assessment phase of this accident to have accurate numbers birds and any mammals killed because of the spill, the Buzzards Bay NEP has made additional inquiries about dead seals found in Buzzards Bay.

First, it is worth noting that dead seals are found from time to time in Buzzards Bay. Seal deaths can occur for several reasons. One notable direct human cause of death is impact of boats and propellers.

In the first week of the oil spill, two dead seals were brought to the wildlife center in New Bedford, one found in Marion, one found in Dartmouth near Barneys Joy. One seal died from a propeller injury. The other was so badly decomposed, that it clearly died before the oil spill. The two seals found in Mattapoisett were reported to the Cape Cod Stranding Network, Inc., a non-profit organization. This organization has been coordinating with state and federal Fish and Wildlife Services since the spill. Brian Sharp of the Stranding Network said he was unaware of any seal deaths caused by this oil spill. The adult seal reported in the paper may have been one previously identified and inspected by state and federal wildlife officials, and left to decompose because it was in a remote area.

It is also worth noting that harbor seals were observed on rocks offshore near Barneys Joy and Mishaum Point in Dartmouth, before and after the spill. We received reports from several sources that at least two seals had oil on their bellies from oil on their haulouts. These seals may no longer be in the area because they typically migrate north this time of year. Seals are viewed as being much less threatened by No. 6 oil than birds.

If we get further information, we will post.

Anyone finding a dead bird or mammal on shore should report their observations to the Incident Command Center at 508-830-6666.

[2:15 PM update: We received confirmation that the emergency berm at Allens Pond has been breached, and that cleanup personnel have vacated Ram Island Mattapoisett.]

8 AM Briefing Notes

[author’s comments in brackets]

[Yesterday there were several important meetings about Ram Island, Allens Pond, and beach gravel replacement. These meetings involved regulators, cleanup officials, wildlife experts, and state and local officials, and resolved some high priority environmental issues, as described below. With the decisions on Allens Pond and Ram Island, the mood this morning among cleanup officials and environmental personnel was that they have turned the corner on a critical phase of the cleanup operations.]

  • Allens Pond will be breached today, probably between 12:00 and 2:00 PM [favorable tides]. The breach will be made where it will not affect a piping plover that nested near the bermed entrance to the salt pond. Both state and Wildlife officials will be on hand to monitor the work. [The Town of Dartmouth, and Dartmouth Conservation Agent Mike O’Reilly closed the Pond as an emergency measure the day after the spill and are now reopening it. Mr. O’Reilly noted to us earlier this week that Allens Pond had closed naturally in the past because of storms and shoreline erosion. During the last closing, salinities were actually lower than observed in this emergency closing.]
  • Based on field inspections, Ram Island now meets cleanup objectives and Wildlife officials have agreed that oil no longer poses a threat to Roseate Terns nesting there. Ram Island should be vacated by 3:00 PM today, and hazing canon operations will cease. Fire Chief Scott of Mattapoisett noted residents will be pleased with the news. The Coast Guard will maintain documentation of the decision making process.
  • The staging area and decontamination station at Mattapoisett Town Wharf was characterized as winding down. Chief Scott noted the town was accommodating the continued operation.
  • Yesterday was characterized as very busy and productive for the shoreline cleanup crews. Cleanup crews have to work around high tides which are 8-9 AM today [50 minutes later each day]. There are 415 field personnel detailed to shoreline cleanup today.
  • SCAT teams and cleanup personnel have received some notifications of buried oil on beaches that are categorized as “cleaned and in maintenance.” Fire Chief Francis of Fairhaven also reported some buried oil at the West Island town beach, and wanted to make sure the area was cleaned before the Boy Scout Jamboree next weekend. Captain Landry noted that a few beaches showed considerable shifting of their profiles during May, and their evaluation survey protocols include digging test pits on beaches. However, if any areas were missed, she stressed residents and town officials should report any finds to the Command Center. She also stressed that areas categorized as “cleaned and in maintenance” does not mean they have been abandoned, and they will re-inspect and clean the West Island beach as requested. Chief Francis reported that the East side of the West Island Beach (and east portion of the parking lot) has now been opened by the town, but cleanup crews will continue to work the West Side. Captain Landry lauded Chief Francis for coordinating their efforts with the Town.
  • Permitting issues are nearly resolved for gravel replacement at four sites. Replaced gravel will range from pea to fist size dependiing upon the site, but may also include some boulders. The four sites were at heavily oiled cobble beaches in Mattapoisett and Fairhaven (area near Crescent Beach, two areas near Brant Island, and an area on Long Island). Once these areas are complete, the process will be evaluated for suitability elsewhere. [Because these operations involve heavy equipment that require suitable access, and because of potential damage to the environment, and the potential for causing shoreline erosion, cleanup officials must work with Conservation Commissions, DEP, and Army Corps on resolving permitting and environmental issues on a case by case basis.]
  • Mike Hickey of MA Division of Marine Fisheries noted that a new round of shellfish tissue samples will be taken on June 9th, and no new areas would be opened before then. His expectation was that openings will be on a case by case basis for each shellfish growing area after the results of shellfish tissues are reviewed.
  • In light of the possibility of submerged oil, DMF has been interviewing lobstermen who have been retrieving pots in Buzzards Bay, and the agency has also conducted its own tow near Barneys Joy. Neither the lobstermen, nor the DMF tow has suggested the presence of submerged oil. The Coast Guard still plans to do its own tows and snare tests on lobster pots.
  • Wildlife coordinators reported that two Eiders were released yesterday, bringing the total to 20. Only one bird remains at the bird rehabilitation unit. No new dead birds have been found.
  • Finance reports that 371 claims have now been filed, and cleanup costs total $24.3 million.
  • Volunteer Coordinator: No news to report
  • The MEMA display and information desk at the Hampton Inn in Fairhaven will close May 31st.
  • On the board, the totals of oiled areas (93.4 miles) and areas treated and in maintenance (69.8 miles), and have not changed since yesterday. The volume of oiled material collected now stands at 5833 cubic yards. Additional dumpster haulouts will be removed from the field today, including one at Neds Point, Mattapoisett.
  • Weather is good today, but unsettled rainy weather will resume this weekend. Cleanup operations will continue through the weekend.

Thursday May 29, 2003 Updates

We have received some inquiries about whether any oil has affected, or poses a threat, to any Cape Cod beaches outside of Buzzards Bay. We are unaware of any landings of oil or tarballs having been reported to the Coast Guard on any South Cape or Marthas Vineyard beaches. At this late stage in the spill, the Buzzards Bay NEP believes it is unlikely that discernable quantities of oil would appear in these areas.

The pictures of the hot water wash systems in the local newspapers have also resulted in inquiries. We described their operation previously, but it is again worth summarizing several points. The cleaning is actually a warm or hot water wash. The process is usually done on an incoming tide, with at least two bands of snare boom placed parallel to the shore to capture the washed off oil. Permission must be obtained to use these on a selective basis because the hot water can be injurious to intertidal animals. We will post a link to a NOAA website that better explains these techniques.

8 AM Briefing Notes

[author’s comments in brackets]

  • The inspection of Ram Island went well yesterday. A few spots were discovered that required additional attention. State and US Fish and Wildlife personnel were pleased with the progress, and said that the site looked “very good.” Cleanup activities could be finished as early as tomorrow. The spot of fresh oil that landed on Ram Island last week was confirmed by lab tests (chromatograph fingerprinting) to be Bouchard No. 120 oil, and not from another source.
  • The type of stone and cobble for beach replacement has been agreed upon for the four or five sites being considered. DEP and the Environmental contractor Entrix are working with municipal Conservation Commissions and the Army Corps to obtain the necessary wetland permits. State, Local, and Federal agencies have provisions for expedited permitting of these types of activities under these types of emergency conditions.
  • Bay wide, cleanup is characterized as going “very well.” Cleanup officials continue to look at a range of management options for the complicated sites around Buzzards Bay that were heavily oiled. For example, in the Crescent Beach/Pico Beach Area of Mattapoisett, a complex mix of sand beaches, cobbles, fringing salt marsh, and hard surfaces must be cleaned. Another similar site is Long Island in Fairhaven. In every town where these complicated sites exist, the Coast Guard has been meeting with town officials, wetland and wildlife specialists, and residents to determine the best cleanupsolution.
    Bouchard No. 120 oil spill cleanup status.
  • Today, 434 shoreline cleanup personnel are on duty. Of the 93.3 miles of shoreline affected, 70 miles are now considered to be “treated and in maintenance.” [As noted previously, the coast guard total of miles of shoreline affected made a large jump last week because they began including areas where sporadic occurrences of tar balls were found. On our map showing maximum degree of oil impact, these tarball areas are included in the “very light” oiling category. We will examine information from the Coast Guard to determine if there is adequate information to create a 5th classification category. We do not believe any sites have yet been “signed off” by the state.]
  • No new dead birds have been discovered, and the bird statistics remain 415 birds dead, 3 in Rehab, 18 released, 245 DOA, 170 died in facility.
  • Four SCAT teams are deployed today, 2 in Rapid Assessment, 2 in Method Assessment. Incident Action Plan objectives will remain the same.
  • Weather has delayed the lobster pot testing and chain dragging for potential submerged oil.
  • Financial Reports $23.7 million expended through the Unified Command to date, with claims now totaling 359.
  • One accident was reported yesterday (cut from a slip on a rock) [the safety record for this spill has been excellent and appears well below average for this scale of operation].
  • A number of sites in Fairhaven and Mattapoisett that received light to heavy oiling should be reclassified today as treated and in maintenance.

Wednesday May 28 updates and 8 AM Briefing Notes

[author’s comments in brackets]

  • Some oil appeared on Barneys Joy that looked new and fresh. The oil appeared in the wrack line, and some Horseshoe crabs came ashore that “looked like they were dipped in fresh oil.” The total quantities of oil were quite small (small droplets mostly), but the appearance of fresh looking oil was a concern. Samples were taken either late last night or this morning and will be fingerprinted (24 hour expedited testing) to confirm that it is Bouchard No. 120 oil [there was the sense that it was likely Bouchard No. 120]. The Coast Guard, which had planned testing lobster traps for submerged oil by attaching snare boom, will also be dragging snare boom attached to chain in search for submerged oil. [Snare boom is a polyethylene pom-pom looking material to which No. 6 strongly adheres to on contact.] This dragging for oil will probably focus around Barneys Joy.[In discussing the issue further with operations chief Joe Ledbedder afterwards, who has experience in different oil spills around the country, and some of my own speculation, several possibilities may be occurring here. First No. 6, which has a density close to seawater and easily adheres to surfaces can sometimes behave unpredictably. It is unlikely that any of the Bouchard No. 6 oil “sank” on discharge or in the first few days. More likely, some oil may have washed ashore, mixed with sand and gained weight then washed back out to sea, existing in small semi-floating accumulations either or settling near the bottom. During low spring tides, some oil could have also coated subtidal rocky areas, which later could release globules of oil. The coating of horseshoe crabs, which come to shore to mate during May and June, might suggest some subtidal accumulations. The consensus was that these are very small quantities oil, and overall, the appearance of new oil has greatly diminished throughout the bay since the spill one month ago. There may occasional occurrences of new oil appearing in some areas, like a 2-foot by 3-foot oil patch that appeared on Ram Island late Friday or early Saturday. The chain and snare boom dragging should help answer the question of subtidal accumulations at least in a qualitative sense.]
  • In the opinion of the Ram Island Cleanup team, the island looked “perfect” and is due for an inspection at 14:00 today.
  • Rock and cobble is being replaced at 4 approved sites in addition to Ram Island. The DEP state geologist worked with the USCG consultant (Entrix) and found a Plymouth quarry with stone that match very closely native beach stone in size, color, and composition.
  • USCG liaison will continue meetings with local officials and residents. There is a 3 PM meeting with Mattapoisett Chief Ron Scott to discuss town issues. The Mattapoisett Town Wharf has remained the principal water based field operations site.
  • Current total 93.4 miles of shoreline affected, 63.8 miles in maintenance. Unified Command will begin new performance tracking reporting. There are 421 cleanup personnel detailed today.
  • Claims now total 355, USCG cleanup costs now total $23.2 million.
  • Bird deaths have now risen to 415 as the result of new DOAs, including new birds from Block Island. However, not all the DOAs have yet been confirmed oil related, so this number may be revised later. One more loon was released yesterday (18 birds released thus far), leaving only 3 Eiders behind. Two eiders may be released tomorrow.
  • Chief Francis of Fairhaven noted that a local boy scout troop camps at the West Island town beach the first weekend of June each year, and asked if this should be allowed this year. Cleanup officials said the beach will be fully cleaned up by then and encouraged the chief to allow the activity.
  • Coalition volunteers handed out information packets to nearshore residents in affected areas [probably 3500 flyers], nothing new to report.
  • Logistics reported that two of the three chemical washes selected by Entrix have arrived for testing. As noted yesterday, these test solutions will be applied to sample plots and compared to control plots to see if they are effective for removing oil from rocks or speeding natural degradation of the oil.
  • A new week-long Incident Action Plan was approved, with a new IRAC (Immediate Response Action cleanup guidelines and goals). [The IRAC species cleanup recommendations agreed upon by MA DEP and the USCG and responsible party for various areas. The IRAC covers “Heavily Utilized, Public Recreational Sand Beaches,” “Less Utilized, Semi-Public and Private sand Beaches,” as well as mixed sand and gravel, rip rap, groins, docks, and rocky area cleanup recommendations. We will try to get a copy to post.]
  • Oily materials stand at 5543 cubic yards collected. Because of increased sand and rock in the waste stream, SEMASS [waste to electricity incinerating facility serving the area] began rejecting some loads, so permits will be obtained for alternative disposal sites suitable for asphalt and rock disposal. Oiled boom and other combustibles will continue to be sent to SEMASS
  • The ongoing debate at Allens Pond on re-opening Allens Pond was weighing threats of oiling birds nesting on the inner areas (including Piping Plover) versus fish or shellfish mortality from declining salinities. It appears that wildlife officials agree now that Allens Pond will open tomorrow or Friday to take advantage of favorable tides.

Tuesday, May 27 Updates and 8 AM briefing notes

  • Cleanup continued throughout the weekend with more than 400+ personnel on duty Saturday, Sunday, and the Monday holiday. Although the cool raining weather over the holiday weekend discouraged beachgoers, it was generally viewed as favorable for cleanup operations, and overall the past few days was characterized as a “productive weekend.” The new total for cleanup of oiled material is 5543 cubic yards. The 28 hot water system (Hotsys) are now in use at many sites, and 421 personnel are scheduled for shoreline cleanup duty.
  • On Friday, it was noted that meetings were being held by state and federal wildlife agencies regarding management options for the heavily oiled Ram Island (Mattapoisett), nesting site of half the endangered Roseate Tern pairs in Buzzards Bay. A wide range of options was discussed at these meetings, even discouraging birds from nesting there the entire season to prevent oiling and any mortality of adults. However it was concluded that because of the cool and late arriving spring, nesting is still viewed as a week away, providing a “window of opportunity.” It was decided that cleanup operations could continue to an even more stringent standard for this week than originally set for the Island as late as last week. Seventy people are detailed to the Island today. Because oiling of the shore was so pervasive in areas and difficult to remove, even with the Hotsys, it was decided that the fist size cobble in one area would be manually removed and replaced with 8 cubic yards of clean cobble to be brought in, probably today. Intense cleanup will continue probably to Thursday of this week, when another inspection is planned. Ram Island has been the focus of intense efforts because the Roseate Tern is a federally listed endangered species and impacts to the birds, and their ability to fledge chicks will be an important consideration in the damage assessments for the oil spill.
  • Allens Pond is another area of intense focus of wildlife officials. In April, the salt pond and salt marsh was first boomed, then bulldozed closed by the Town of Dartmouth Conservation Commission as the threat of massive oiling to the sensitive area was imminent (read last Friday’s article by Joe Costa in the NB Standard Times about town actions to protect sensitive areas.). This action was undertaken with the approval of property owners, including the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which has a field station on the Pond. Declining salinities in the pond are now becoming a concern, and with the threat of new oilings declining, the salt pond entrance will likely be reopened soon. Also of note were some dead birds were recently collected near the ponds, but the deaths did not appear to be oil related. Because many wild birds have died in recent years because of the West Nile Virus, this was also tested for, but those results came back negative. Avian Botulism, another occasional bird killer, was also ruled out. The birds have now been shipped to a specialty lab in the midwest for further testing as to the cause of death.
  • No wildlife report was given this morning, but the bird total on the board stands at 400 dead (230 DOA, 170 Died in the Facility), 4 remaining in rehab, and 17 released. With 191 birds captured, the survival rate now stands at only 11% [low for No. 6 fuel, and widely attributed to the toxicity of this particular No. 6.]
  • The Coast Guard has increased the total number of miles affected because they are now including shoreline that had tarballs washed ashore that are now categorized as “treated and in maintenance” [on the BBP maps, these are included in the category “very lightly oiled.”]. The total now stands as 93.4 miles affected, with 69.8 treated and in maintenance.
  • No new claims were filed yesterday. Total cleanup costs through Unified Command now stand at $22.6 million.
  • Entrix, the private consultant overseeing environmental assessment aspects of the cleanup, will be testing three commercial products to determine their efficacy and manufacturers claims. Entrix established selection criteria that included low toxicity, and products on the national list of cleanup products tested for toxicity. [Read this EPA Fact Sheet to better understand what products are allowed to be used.] Entrix must also obtain Massachusetts DEP approval before they begin. The products will be tested on side-by-side experimental plots with controls.
  • Over the weekend meetings with residents in Dartmouth and Fairhaven were reported to have gone well. Residents were generally pleased with cleanup progress and some were now anxious for the cleanup work to be finished because the large amount of traffic, personnel, and vehicles and dumpsters that have been onsite for four weeks in some locations. One question that came up in both meetings was the fact that residents reported they saw cleanup personnel through oiled rocks and cobble into the water. Coast Guard officials explained that this actually an approved cleanup process. [Rocks are first wiped with absorbents or adsorbents to remove any loose oil. Rocks naturally shift around beaches because of wave action, and the wave action and abrasion helps weather the oil and speeds up natural bacterial decomposition processes. The rocks will not be hauled away because they help protect the beach. Certain beaches are naturally cobble because waves and currents tend to carry away fine sands.]
  • Fairhaven’s Fire Chief reported some new oil appeared on parts of West Island, and SCAT teams found new oil washed onto Barneys Joy beach. In both cases the oil is characterized as tar balls or oil mobilized from other oiled areas.
  • Unified Command will be developing a new Incident Action Plan for this week.
  • Logistics is still working on a move to the New Bedford area
  • Four SCAT teams were deployed over the weekend, and three yesterday, with considerable survey work done in RI. The two cleanup personnel will return from Block Island today, but return on Thursday. About 10 miles of shoreline on the Island had occasional tarballs. Town officials will continue observing the area and picking up tarballs.

Friday, May 23 updates and briefing notes

News Analysis: Late yesterday, there were a flurry of reports on certain radio and TV stations that inaccurately reported that Coast Guard officials were acknowledging that the spill was really 300,000 gallons. The idea may have started when an article published yesterday in the Cape Cod Times about the shellfish bed openings, casually noted at the end of the article that 3.8 million gallons of the oil was offloaded at the Mirant power facility in the Cape Cod Canal (click here to read the article). Some readers and reporters following the story probably recognized that the Bouchard tank barge was carrying 4.1 million gallons, and probably wondered was the spill really 300,000 gallons? However, as previously reported by the press, and perhaps forgotten by some, oil from the damaged vessel was also offloaded while it was moored in Buzzards Bay. Apparently feeding into the story, one news organization was claiming as a source a military official that knew precise information about the depths of oil in the various compartments. Incident Commander Captain Landry met with and called reporters to say the news reports were incorrect, and that whatever source of information they had was unreliable. By 11 PM, the news story was retracted.

Please read this Standard Times Article by BBP Executive Director Joe Costa on the important local contribution of town officials in protecting sensitive areas of Buzzards Bay.

Friday 8 AM Briefing Notes

Captain Mary Landry Bouchard No. 120 IC

[author’s comments in brackets]

  • A series of meetings are being held this morning between Wildlife Officials, Mattapoisett Officials, environmental contractors, about the best way to manage Ram Island, and the Roseate Terns that nest there. Any remaining risks to the adults, the viability of successfully fledging chicks, and other issues will be discussed.
  • 453 shoreline cleanup personnel are detailed today. Hotsys (hot’-sees, hot water wash systems) will again be deployed at carefully selected sites. Mishaum is one location where they may be used today.
  • The coalition successfully distributed information packets in Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, and Marion yesterday. A major push today will be the remainder of Dartmouth and Westport.
  • There was a delay on the delivery of baby oil samples for the beach education packets, but they should arrive by today [Rain is forecast throughout the holiday weekend so few may be distributed this weekend anyway, but these packets will probably be distributed for some time into the summer in heavily oiled areas.]
  • No change in the status of birds reported (Board notes 391 dead, 5 in rehab, 17 released). The reported loon death in Middletown RI could not be verified or found.
  • Fewer tar balls were found in Middletown, RI than first reported, some of the reported tarballs proved to be chunks of asphalt from an eroded road.
  • Fairhaven Fire Chief Francis announced that a religious service will be held on West Island 3:30 PM Sunday in support of the cleanup crews.
  • Members of the Fairhaven Health Department and Board of Health attended today’s briefing and met with Coast Guard officials on the cleanup operation.
  • A team is in place today collecting any tarballs on Block Island, RI.
  • Finance reported clean-up costs have totaled $20.6 million, claims now stand at 326
  • 4 SCAT teams are deployed today to conduct rapid response assessments.
  • Captain Landry characterized the misreporting of 300,000 gallons spilled as irresponsible journalism. She noted that neither she nor her staff was contacted before the story was run. The Coast Guard is currently reviewing the professionally certified gauging reports. She noted that even factors such as the temperature of the oil and the amount remaining in the pipes or coating the inside of barge compartments are being accounted for. She expected the final tally to be close to the current 98,000-gallon estimate.

Thursday May 22 Updates and 8 AM Briefing Notes

[side comments by author in brackets]

  • The big good news hitting the airwaves and papers today is the announced elimination of 90,000 acres of Buzzards Bay (roughly 50%) from the 22 to 24 day oil contamination closure. Area shellfish wardens were notified first as is customary by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, yesterday between 5-6 PM. The area open essentially includes the eastern side of Buzzards Bay (Bourne and Falmouth) and selected bays and harbors on the west side of the bay including areas like Apponagansett Bay, Weweantic River, and the Westport Rivers. In Falmouth, only the moderately oiled Wild Harbor in North Falmouth will continue to have an oil closure. Some areas will default to bacteria closure lines. For example, West Falmouth Harbor is normally closed May through August because of elevated fecal bacteria. Shellfishermen should contact their town shellfish warden about the specific boundaries of the opening. DMF should have a map posted later today, and we will provide a link and more details. More heavily oil areas may remain closed for weeks, or possibly months. Each remaining area will be considered on a case by case basis as the results of shellfish meat tests (for PAHs -Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons) come in.
  • Ram Island may be finished today. 65 personnel are detailed to the Island today. When cleanup is finished, the use of Hazing Canon may continue for two additional days to allow several tidal cycles to provide a “final wash.”
  • The first Roseate Tern was found dead, on Planting Island, Marion, and preliminary reports are that it was oiled. A necropsy is planned. If the death is due to oil, this is significant because it is a US Endangered species. [Endangered species impacts is a significant aspect of the natural resource damage assessment and any fines imposed. The NRDA process will continue sometime after the cleanup. Based on spills in other areas, even the number of Roseate Tern or Piping Plover chicks fledged this summer will be considered in the damage assesments.
  • [Incidentally, under no circumstances should residents dispose of dead birds they find on their shore. This information is important as part of the damage assessment. Also be persistent in your calls to the Coalition to report accumulations of oil that has been overlooked. ]
  • SCAT teams are taking a ferry to Block Island Rhode Island to investigate tarball landings to begin surveys and cleanup tomorrow. In Middelton, Rhode Island, reports of tarballs and a dead loon will be also investigated.
  • The Buzzards Bay Coalition and other volunteers (about 70 total) will begin door-to-door distribution of information packets on safety and health issues to nearshore residents in affected areas. In addition, some Mattapoisett area high school students (Old Rochester Regional High School) will be participating in the distribution of the packets around Mattapoisett and Marion. Primary areas covered today will be parts of Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, and a small portion of Dartmouth. Dartmouth will be continued tomorrow, and other areas. This has garnered media interest. the packets include the tarball fact sheet [link on our health concerns page] and other information. The packets with the 4 oz baby oil sample for cleaning will only be included in the packets handed out at public beaches.
  • 420 field personnel are in cleanup operation. 27 or 28 hot water pressure wash systems (Hotsys) remain in the field, although not all are in use. A view of their operation can be made on Planting Island (actually a peninsula) in the Town of Marion. Other areas continued to be cleaned include Crescent Beach, Barneys Joy, Mishaum, various areas in Fairhaven and Marion among others. The rocks around Ft. Tabor in New Bedford still have concentrations of oil and tarballs
  • Oily solids acquisition has slowed and stands at 4928 yards. There are 420 Field personnel detailed to clean-up today.
  • Finance had an error in calculations yesterday, the actual total now stands at $20.0 million. 320 claims have been filed
  • We reported earlier this week on conflicted number of bird killed because of disagreement on how to handle “bird parts” and carcasses washing on shore. Wildlife specialist have reviewed the material and records and translated this to 6 birds dead. The total this morning now stands 391 birds dead. 17 total released, and 5 still in rehabilitation. [The earlier total of 377 total was broken down as 222 DOA, 155 died in facility to give you a sense of where the birds died. Using the 155 DIF total, plus released and in rehab, the captured survival rate appears to be only 12.5% (22/177), less than the 20% survival rate expected for No. 6 fuel. It has been speculated that the higher mortality rate is due to higher than typical toxicity for a No. 6 fuel.]
  • Warning signs have been printed and will begin to be posted on selected beaches and jetties still oiled.
  • Cleanup of oil at one boat ramp may involve the removal of pavement
  • The Command Center will be again moving, possibly to the New Bedford area.
  • The oil removal contractor will be testing a surface wash product on rocks with the approval of MA DEP
  • Captain Landry acknowledged that she received a considerable number of inquiries regarding the revised spill number. She again reaffirmed to her staff at the Command Center that their response would have not been different. From the start they responded to what they saw on the water, what was landing, and the potential for what was on board the vessel and what it could release [The vessel carried more than 4 million gallons of oil in 10 compartments. One compartment was confirmed to have been damaged in the first day.] She noted that the Coast Guard recognizes that the first estimates of oil spilled are usually inaccurate, and good estimates are rarely had by the first week. This case was being handled according to their Marine Casualty Investigation process, and the record will show that the Coast Guard had subpoenaed Bouchard for the relevant information on the volume as early as May2. She acknowledged one lesson learned by the Coast Guard is the importance of stressing to the media the preliminary nature of first estimates of oil spilled.

Wednesday May 21, 2003

There was a strong reaction to the Bouchard Transportation Company’s announcement yesterday about the near 7-fold increase in the estimated oil spilled. The total estimated by Bouchard based on volumes pumped off the Barge nearly two weeks ago now stands at 98,000 gallons. It should be kept in mind that this is not the official total that will be adopted by the Coast Guard. After revieweing the data, it is possible a different volume will be settled upon. Click on the New Bedford Standard Times Oil Spill summary pageto read more.

  • Bird mortality reported remains at 377, although 3 new DOA were delivered to the facility.
  • oiled material cleanup is 4,928 cubic yards, 427 shoreline cleanup personnel are detailed today.
  • Ram Island was inspected yesterday but a multiagency team. Some small hotspots were discovered, so work will continue, but the island is getting near the point where cleanup crews will leave, and terns will be allowed to nest.
  • The main Decon station will remain at Mattapoisett Wharf at the request of the town because moving it at this point will disrupt operations. Ramps have been cleaned, and boat hauling will not be impeded. Several slips have been commandeered for operations, and owners of the slips will receive financial reimbursement under the claims process.
  • The MEMA information booth will be open this weekend, and may remain open beyond the weekend, depending upon demand.
  • SCAT teams inspected 20 sites yesterday, mostly sandy beaches, and sandy rock beaches. More difficult rocky beaches will be inspected today.
  • Additional hot water pressure cleaning systems (hotsys) are in place. Permission must be obtained to use these on a selective basis because the hot water can be injurious to intertidal animals.
  • claims are now at 307.

Tuesday May 20 Updates

This morning, the Coast Guard announced that it had received new estimates of No. 6 oil spilled from the Bouchard Transportation Company. The total amount of oil estimated to be spilled is now 98,000 gallons or nearly 7 times the original estimate of 14,700 gallons. Massachusetts DEP and the Coast Guard are reviewing the report. This new information makes the spill the largest since the 1974 Bouchard 65 tank bargespill of 165,000 of No. 2 Fuel oil, and passes the same Bouchard 65 Tank Barge spill of 81,000 gallons of No. 2 in 1978. The new estimates were based on the volume of oil pumped off the vessel about May 7 or 8 and other calculations.

Command Center 8 AM Briefing highlights

  • Captain Landry, Incident Commander stated that a press release would be issued sometime later this morning with the revised estimate from Bouchard of the amount of oil discharged. Captain Landry assured the Command Center that their response would have been no different because this was always considered a major spill because of the volume of oil on board [4 million gallons], and they were cognizant that first estimates of discharge are often wrong. Clean-up and personnel and command staff were quickly ramped up based the amount of oil washed ashore or found at sea. She further stated that the Responsible Party is always required to provide timely notification to the Coast Guard whenever they have developed better estimates of spilled cargo. [Oil was off loaded from the damaged barge about May 7 or 8? MA DEP will also look into the timeliness of this notification by Bouchard.]
  • Captain Landry also mentioned that some eyebrows have been raised by the cost of the cleanup (it had been shaping as to one of the highest dollars per gallon spilled cleanup costs for an over 10,000 gallon spill). The new estimate of oil spilled will put the clean-up costs more in line with other spills. [Comment: This spill will still remain one of the most expensive spills in terms of cost per gallon because of the confined nature of Buzzards Bay, the difficult characteristics of the oil, and the geographic distribution of the original spill, the sensitive resources around the bay, and the intense public use of the bay. Soon to come, comparisons with some other spills.]
  • This week, in light of Memorial Day weekend, a major public outreach effort will begin to educate residents and visitors. On sandy beaches, occasional tar balls washing ashore in the coming days to weeks will remain a problem. Rocks in heavily oiled areas will remain black for some time. A door-to-door campaign to educate the public about health and safety issues, including pet safety [a dog this week appeared ill after licking oiled fur, for example.] Beginning Wednesday, volunteers will go door-to-door to drop off an packet with information on tar balls, health information, a small bottle of baby oil for removing oil from skin, and wipes. The goal is to deliver the packages to residents along the near shore in every oiled area. Because beaches are not yet manned by life guards, but will be in use on warmer days, the Coats Guard will look to the Towns or Citizen groups to hand out flyers and information packets to people who may be using the beaches this holiday weekend. There was also discussion about signage needed at public and semi-public beaches to warn people about avoiding coming into contact with tarballs . Some areas will be taped off where work continues or areas remain heavily oiled.
  • Exclusionary boom no longer needed will be removed to eliminate the hazard from weekend boaters (many boats are typically launched Memorial Day weekend for the season). Decon stations should be removed from most public access points.
  • Incident Command cleanup costs total $18.4 million, with 300 claims filed. Clean-up personnel now total 443.
  • The bird count is back down to 377 as the official count. As noted yesterday, we began using a number that included “bird parts” washed ashore. Apparently, there is not yet an agreement on how to handle this information.
  • Ram Island restoration is going well. Will try to get more details later today.
  • Congressman William Delahunt and State Rep Eric Turkington were on a helicopter survey of BB and were reported to be pleased with cleanup progress.
  • The Fairhaven Fire Chief noted area Doctors have been requesting the MSD sheet for this oil. The Coast Guard will obtain the information and pass it along [we will post it here when we get it].

Monday May 19

Buzzards Bay is like a big bath tub, with walls on most sides, and it is difficult for oil to be washed out to sea without hitting land. This fact, together with a conspicuous sticky black oil have made the scale of the cleanup greater than might be expected for a 14,700 gallon spill. However, it now appears there is an additional explanation. This Saturday, a Boston Globe article suggested “workers … suspect that the damaged barge leaked far more oil into the water than the owners initially reported, based on the amount of cleanup work that has been required.” As it turns out, the original volume of oil spill was underestimated, perhaps even considerably underestimated. At noon tomorrow (Tuesday), Bouchard will release its own revised estimates in a report to the Coast Guard. When the barge had its remaining oil offloaded last week, the Coast Guard began examining the differences between what was reported to be on the barge, and what had been removed. The original estimate of 14,700 gallons was based on meters of oil level the day of the accident, and estimated depth of oil in the barge compartments. These preliminary estimates can be wrong because oil floats on water flooding the vessel, so the thickness of oil on the water must be calculated, but that can be hard to do in rough seas. In addition, oil expands with increasing temperature, so even loading and off-loading temperatures must be accounted for when calculating the precise volume of oil spilled. No agencies will speculate on the revised estimated volume until Bouchard releases its report. Will it be a slight increase, or a seven-fold increase? Time will tell.

8 AM Briefing highlights

[author’s comments in brackets]

  • Two bird mortality totals were reported today: 396 and 377. The higher number includes the fact that they are now including bird carcass parts washing ashore, and we will now use this number in our graphs below. Two birds were brought in DOA this weekend. One bird was transferred to Tuft Veterinary School for a broken leg. A few additional birds were leased, bring that total to 9. Only 18 birds remain in rehab. [This spill has shown to a higher average mortality rate for oiled birds than is expected to No. 6 oil.]
  • Last week, as the cleanup moved from a wide scale gross cleanup to one that is more focused in finer scale cleaning, the number of workers has been scaled back to 489.
  • There are now 28 hot water pressure wash systems (called “Hotsys” in the jargon of the trade) being used around the Bay, particularly on Ram Island, other locations in Mattapoisett, Fairhaven and Dartmouth. Because these machines require constant mechanical attention, additional mechanics are being deployed on repair trucks to keep the units operational.
  • Mike Hickey, of the MA Division of Marine Fisheries stated that DMF and Entrex (consultant) will be taking more shellfish samples in additional areas in the next few days around Buzzards Bay to determine shellfish safety. DMF cannot predict at this time when shellfish beds might open . [Based on expected sample turn around times, the earliest possible openings might be Wednesday of this week. The areas that DMF would hope to open would be unoiled portions Bourne and Falmouth, and unoiled harbors on the Western Shore like the Westport Rivers and Apponagansett Bay. After removal of the oil ban from an area, it would default to its default fecal closure status. For example, many embayments, like West Falmouth Harbor are closed anyway from May through the summer because of elevated fecal coliform levels. However, the timeline and targeted areas will be defined by many factors.]
  • This weekend, a dog was observed rolling in an oiled stretch of beach. The Coast Guard is putting together an informational packet for shoreline residents about precautions while the clean-up is ongoing, and to explain what clean-up goals should be met.
  • In recognition that it is Memorial Day weekend, the clean-up teams will push hard this week, and most public and semi public beaches are expected to be cleaned up. However, clean up activities will continue through the holiday weekend if an area still requires treatment. The public should avoid areas where they see shoreline clean-up crews working.
  • Overall the meeting in Mattapoisett went very well.
    [Two observations of note: When a resident stated he was more concerned with his beach, rather than the birds off shore, Captain Landry retorted unequivocally that the US Endangered species habitat on Ram Island must be a clean-up priority, but private beaches will also be cleaned. Also, the level of clean-up expected by residents was driven home to the Coast Guard when there was considerable discussion of the oiling a rock offshore which bathers swim to on a popular beach.]
  • Gross oil clean-up on Ram Island is nearly finished, more detailed cleaning and “touching up” is ongoing. Mid-day high spring tides are hampering efforts. Hazing operations continue at night, and may continue to the end of the week. Roseate Terns are definitely in the areas, but are being scared off the Island with hazing operations. It is hoped that by the end of the week cleanup operations will cease, and the birds allowed to nest on the Island.
  • cleanup volumes of oiled material has reached 4588 cubic yards, clean-up operations have totaled $18.5 million, heavy equipment is being decontaminated, and demobilized.
  • Decontamination areas in Mattapoisett may be shifted to New Bedford later this week. The Coast Guard is attempting to shift operation sites to avoid interrupting boat launch schedules typical of the Holiday weekend.

Friday May 16, 8 AM Briefing highlights

  • Tom O’Shea, MA Fish and Wildlife reported that 5 birds were released yesterday in Marshfield, north of Buzzards Bay. The species released north of their capture because they were north migrating species. They were 1 Loon, 3 Scoters, and 1 Bufflehead. A sixth bird, another Loon, was attempted to be released, but did not leave the area. The two loons were released together; the apparently healthier loon appeared to wait for the other, then departed. The remaining Loon was recaptured by boat and returned to the rehabilitation facility. The birds were banded by US Fish and Wildlife service.
  • Bird mortality as of this morning was 361 dead, and 21 in rehabilitation. Blood tests on the remaining survivors is not favorable. The wildlife rescuers have been very disheartened by the high mortality rate of birds that have been oiled. It is believed the high mortality rate is due to the higher toxicity of this No. 6 compared to other No. 6 oils [review newspaper accounts of Dr. Chris Reddy’s (WHOI) findings]. No new birds are coming in.
  • No endangered Piping Plover are known to be killed by the spill, though many birds have been observed with spots of oil. [We reported last week that Dr. Bob Buchsbaum at Mass Audubon, Dartmouth noted up to 80% of the birds near the Allens Pond field station.] However, one bird appeared ill in the field, and its capture was being considered.
  • The cleanup of Ram Island remains a race against time. Hazing canon operations continue at night, and are effective in keeping away terns. Though no endangered Roseate Terns have been killed, if this habitat is not restored in time for the mating and nesting season (ending in less than approximately 2 weeks), the loss of this nesting habitat may enter into the monetary damage assessments.
  • The Westport Board of Selectmen requested the Coast Guard to attend their Monday May 19 Westport Selectmen’s meeting (6 PM) to brief them and discuss clean-up efforts in Westport. The weekly Selectmen’s meeting is broadcast on the local cable access channel.
  • The Coast Guard and State are meeting with Mattapoisett officials and residents at 2 PM Sunday at Old Rochester Regional High School.
  • DEP is developing an Immediate Response Action Completion (IRAC) report. This is part of the state’s waste site cleanup process.
  • Fire chiefs from Fairhaven, Bourne, and Mattapoisett were at this morning’s briefing. Chief Scott of Mattapoisett Reported that one of the oil clean-up dumpsters caught fire this morning, and the incident was under investigation.
  • The hot water pressure washing of rocks continue on Ram Island (more units are being flown in). [We incorrectly used the term “steam” cleaning yesterday. The cleaning is actually a warm or hot water wash. The process is usually done on an incoming tide, with snare boom place parallel to shore to capture the washed off oil. Go to the NOAA oil clean-up and treatment Q&A website for more explanation of clean-up options and limitations.] There was discussion of the need to have a second ring of snare present for the pressure washing cleaning process.
  • More skates have been reported dead washed ashore. There is some doubt that this is oil related, because other fish species would be affected. Lab tests have not yet been received. One possibility suggested was that squid trawlers are now operating in Vineyard Sound, and skates are a “bycatch” captured by the trawlers, then later thrown overboard. Where they are disposed of may depend on what port the trawler operates out of. The first dead skates were observed in Mattapoisett by Brant Island. Skates are also used as a bait fish in lobster pots.
  • IC Clean-up costs now total $16.4 million dollars, and a total of 251 claims have been received. The largest category remains loss of earnings by fisherman (114). Other categories include business interruption (25), increased cost of services (24), real property damage (54), boat and equipment oilings (21), and others.
  • SCAT teams are increasing from 4 this week to 6 as the evaluation of treated areas expands. During rough weather of the past couple of weeks, oil got buried beneath sand (5 to 8 inches) on a few beaches. SCAT teams are digging test holes along beaches as part of their survey, especially recreational beaches, to ensure that this oil is recovered. So far they have been relieved to discover this problem is not widespread.
  • Oilings on rocky areas of Fairhaven (Sconticut Neck and West Island), and Mishaum Point and Barney’s Joy Dartmouth remain some of the biggest challenges in the clean-up operations
  • SCAT continue to respond to calls from residents for trapped oil in rocky areas. Earlier this week a resident of Fairhaven pointed out where oil had been trapped in a jetty, and this oil was recovered.
  • Mike Hickey, MA DMF does not expect review of shellfish tissue to be complete until early next week. Shellfish beds will not be opened until the MA Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Division has reviewed all relevant data. Lobster meat tissues are also under analysis.
  • Incident Command leadership critical priorities issues are currently Ram Island, Allens Pond, and enhanced communication.
  • The necessity and timing of breaching of the emergency berm at Allens Pond was discussed. [We reported last week that the Dartmouth Conservation Commission, under emergency wetland regulation provisions, and in consultation with DEP, MCZM, and DMF, and the landowner’s incl. Mass Audubon, bulldozed the entrance of the salt pond in a successful attempt to protect it from oiling.] The pond cannot be allowed to get too fresh or Quahogs and other shellfish could die. DMF will consult with the town, and the salinity of the salt pond will be reviewed.

Thursday May 15, 8 AM Briefing highlights

  • Bird nesting islands in Buzzards Bay remain a top priority for wildlife managers. Tom O’Shea (MA F & W) said hazing cannon operations continue at night on Ram Island, Mattapoisett (to the annoyance of some residents), while workers continue intense daytime cleaning operations including intense manual scraping of rocks with putty knives, and high-pressure warm water cleaning of rocks. Ram Island continues to be the focus of an intense clean-up effort. Ram Island is home to half the Buzzards Bay nesting pairs of Roseate Terns, a US endangered species, and the Island accounts for nearly one forth of the entire North American breeding pairs. Fifty-three workers are detailed to the small Island, the largest number that this Island can accommodate without the threat of environmental degradation. Nearby Bird Island in Marion, the other major Buzzards Bay nesting site is becoming overcrowded with birds competing for limited nesting sites. At the other end of Buzzards Bay, on Penikese Island, Fish and Wildlife officials have put out nesting boxes, and are using loudspeakers playing bird nesting colony sounds in an effort to attract terns to that site. The cleanup of Ram Island is truly a race against time, because birds will be paired off and begin nesting in two weeks. Even with the intense effort, it may be another week before all oil is removed from Ram Island so that it is safe for birds to nest there.
  • Wildlife officials may soon be releasing a handful of rehabilitated birds. The precise location may not be disclosed to ensure an undisturbed release of the birds. Watch for a Coast Guard press release. Some species released, like Loons, were migrating to Canada. Loons accounted for the majority of the species killed, and it was estimated that populations may take three years to recover. Bird mortality reached 354 [correction] as of 15:00 yesterday.
  • Incident Command clean-up costs have reached $15.4 million, and continue to increase at about $900,000 per day. Claims total 241, with the largest number for loss of earnings from Fisherman (110 claims), with other claims ranging from oiling of boats and equipment, loss of access, increased costs of services, and others
  • Volunteer contributions have totaled 2047 hours. [Last week the citizen group, the Buzzards Bay Coalition has been organizing beach litter cleanups after beaches have been cleaned of oil. This gives volunteers an opportunity to contribute to the effort, and also helps the Coalition evaluate the success of beach oil removal.]
  • Additional shoreline cleanup equipment is being brought in from around the county


Bouchard No. 120 SCAT Map May 2003


Wednesday May 14, 8 AM updates

[the authors editorial comments in brackets]

  • Bird mortality has climbed to 340 dead. [This is a slight increase in 24-hour mortality rate, but total mortality is leveling off.] Wildlife team leader Tom O’Shea noted that it is now clear that the toxicity of the oil is higher than most No. 6 fuel, and the birds are suffering from ulcerations and kidney damage from oil toxicity. He noted that survival rate of oiled birds in this spill may turn out to be lower than the national average for other No. 6 spills. [These observations appear to support the assertion of Dr. Reddy, of the WHOI, who in the press last week commented that this No. 6 oil contains a high volume of napthalenes other No. 6 oils he has analyzed. Naphthalenes are among the more toxic constituents of heavier oils.]
  • Five skates washed ashore dead in Brant Cove, Mattapoisett [a moderately oiled area]. It is unclear if this mortality has anything to do with oil contamination. The skates were sent to a laboratory in Woods Hole for further study. [The only sea life reported dead during the spill so far were a few horseshoe crabs near Allens Pond Dartmouth. These animals may have been oiled when they came ashore to mate during the last spring tide 2 weeks ago. Surf Clams were washing ashore dead in Dartmouth near Barneys Joy [correction] also, and some of these were collected for analysis.]
  • Ram Island, is undergoing continued intense cleaning efforts including scraping of rocks with putty knives, and power washing. It is expected to be ready for an evaluation inspection in two days. Heated power washing is going to be tested in another site today. [Ram Island in Mattapoisett and Bird Island in Marion account for most of the Roseate Tern Nesting Pairs in North America.].
  • Oil spill expenses have topped $14.6 million dollars. As of yesterday, 223 claims have been filed. 103 of these are from fisherman for loss of earnings.
  • 683 people are detailed to shoreline cleanup. 43 people are involved with decontamination in New Bedford. Today the oil skimmer vessel Maine is being decontaminated.
  • oiled material collected is up to 3300 cubic yards. Combustible materials are continued to be sent to SEMASS for incineration, oil cobble and gravel is now being sent to a facility in Maine.
  • SCAT teams confirmed a small amount of tar balls washed ashore in Narragansett, RI and along Scarborough State Beach. The Coast Guard is holding meetings with RI Environmental officials.
  • Incident Command has a new press person detailed to the effort. Their previous press person was reassigned last week.

Tuesday May 13 updates

  • At the start of this week, the 4 PM briefings were canceled. Municipal oil responders are welcome to attend the 8 AM briefings, and generally one or two local officials are at these meetings.
  • 711 persons are dedicated to shoreline cleanup. This appears to be the greatest number thus far.
  • Cleanup costs now total $13.55 million dollars. This number is somewhat of an overestimate because it now includes PRFA totals. [Note: PRFA is the Pollution Removal Funding Authorization, which is a financial mechanism that the Coast Guard uses to establish funds to pay out to responders to the oil spill such as state agencies and municipalities. For example, if a town utilized boom to respond to the spill, the Coast Guard would set aside a certain amount of money in a cleanup account that they know will cover those costs with a margin of safety. Generally these PRFA set-asides are not fully expended. Once the first phase of the cleanup is complete, first responders have 90 days to file for reimbursement.
  • 2930 cu yards of oiled material has been collected.
  • The Coast Guard is working on a new set of maps and working definitions of “clean” and endpoints for the survey work. Maps will be revised to distinguish between areas never oiled, and areas cleaned to some agreed upon level. The Fairhaven Fire chief noted that some residents did not feel certain areas were adequately cleaned.
  • MA Fish and Wildlife team leader Tom O’Shea reported that wildlife rehabilitation staff have committed 2088 hours total to the rescue efforts. Hazing operations continue on Rams Island. Many birds are seeking to utilize Bird Island instead. Skin and GI ulcers were observed on some birds from apparent oil toxicity. 325 birds were reported dead with 44 in Rehab.
  • There will be a meeting on Sunday, 2 PM in Mattapoisett with residents and Mattapoisett officials. Place to be announced.
  • Operations reported that 89,000 man-hours have been committed through Unified Command since the first response. This total does not include additional state or municipal totals.
  • The meeting and event on Thursday at 3:00 PM in New Bedford with the Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Ellen Roy Herzfelder, was discussed, and what information needed to be gathered for that event. [Note: meeting was been canceled.]
  • Mike Hickey, of DMF, commented on the fact that the press has reported that some shellfish beds might be opened as early as tomorrow. He stated that the actual date of openings depended upon a final review of the recent shellfish tissue test data by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and that no date or times had been finalized on shellfish openings. He also noted that municipal shellfish officers are generally notified first about these openings.
  • 209 claims have been filed, 93 of these are from fisherman who have filed claims for loss of income.
  • Two reports of tar balls were reported from Narragansett, RI. SCAT teams are being deployed to Rhode Island to investigate. Generally, the Rhode Island oilings have been categorized as very light.

Monday May 12, 8 AM Briefing

  • Considerable progress was been made over the weekend, and cleanup officials are very pleased with the progress made. In the Town of Westport most public swimming beaches are expected to be certified as clean this week after final inspections. The same may be said of selected sandy beaches in Mattapoisett and Fairhaven. Private beaches will also be reviewed. Cleanup crews will be redeployed from cleaned areas to those problematic and hardest hit. Cobble beaches and spaces between rocks in groins remain some of the toughest challenges. In only a few beaches was there burial of oil with sand, and these oiled areas are being dug with hand shovels wherever found.
  • Only one re-oiling incident was reported over the weekend (Alders St., West Island). Except for occasional landing of tar balls, officials are not expecting any new significant re-oilings
  • [The BBP updated the oiled impacted map below based on the current live map at incident command. Note that affected areas now extend all the way to near the entrance of Narragansett Bay, but this impact area is classified as “very light” and sporadic along that stretch of coast. Also, more detailed surveys were undertaken on Cuttyhunk and Pasque [correction] Islands in the Elizabeth Island chain. Most of the oiling on Cuttyhunk is categorized as very light, and Pasque had areas of mostly “very light” to “light” oiled stretches of coast.]
  • Tom O’Shea reported that as of yesterday, bird mortality had risen to 316 birds, with 61 undergoing rehabilitation. [The BBP has been tracking the average 24-hour death rate, and over the weekend mortality rate was slightly below that of the end of last week. The hope remains that daily mortality rates will continue to decline throughout this week.]
  • Weather will remain cool and raining for the next couple of days. Cleanup crews will have to work around the high spring tides of this week.
  • Because of the large volume of deliveries to the SEMASS Resource Recovery Facility incinerator that had to be accommodated (9 roll-offs a day on average have been sent to the facility), the number of roll-offs deployed to the field was increased to 85. There should be a big increase in volume of oil-material collected as the backlog of roll-offs are delivered to SEMASS, and then we should see a steady declined of oiled material collected.
  • The Coast Guard is working with Town of Mattapoisett officials to hold a public meeting

This information was compiled from various sources, and first reports, and is subject to revision.

Saturday May 10 updates

Yesterday the Massachusetts DEP and the US Coast Guard Environmental Unit met with Buzzards Bay area municipal officials to describe oil spill cleanup activities and endpoints. The meeting was held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on Friday. The objective of the meeting was to answer the many questions of local government officials, and to explain the short term cleanup endpoints.

Robert Donovan, John Fitzgerald, and Richard Packard of MA DEP made the presentation. Below are the goals identified for each type of coastal habitat:

Sandy beaches:

Goal: No visible oil
Methods: Manual removal of visible oil, manual or mechanical removal of oiled wrack, removal of buried oil

Mixed Sand and Gravel, Rip Rap Groins:

Goal: No sheen. No oil available when touched.
Methods: Manual removal of visible oil, manual or mechanical removal of oiled wrack, removal of buried oil, manual removal of visible coat and thicker

Rip Rap Seawall, Bulkheads, Docks, Piers:

Goal: No sheen. No oil available when touched.
Methods: Manual removal of visible oil coat and thicker, manual or mechanical removal of oiled wrack

Rocky Shoreline:

Goal: No sheen. No oil available when touched.
Methods: Manual removal of visible oil, manual or mechanical removal of oiled wrack

Salt Marshes:

Goal: No sheen. Note: Oil coating may be left on peat or leaves to avoid salt marsh destruction.
Methods: Remove patches of pooled oil

Friday May 9 updates

  • It has been clarified that today’s meeting in New Bedford is a Public Meeting , not a public hearing. DEP and The Coast Guard Environmental Unit will discuss cleanup end points, and short term and long term cleanup objectives with local officials, and answer their questions. Where time permits, questions from the public will be answered.
  • The opening and closing of municipal public and private beaches is under the control of the Board of Health for public health purposes, and Police Departments for safety reasons. Beaches are not officially open this time of year, but the Fairhaven fire chief noted that Fairhaven Police Department has closed the West Island beach to the public. Dave Janik of Mass. Coastal Zone Management is putting together a list of public beaches that are either closed by the town, or in which the town has identified contamination of the beach as a health or safety issue.
  • Bird mortality is up to 264 dead, but Tom O’Shea of Mass Fish and Wildlife, who has been leading the bird recovery and assessment efforts, believes that mortality rates have peaked, and things will get better as the most heavily oiled areas are cleaned up. His statement is supported by the graph below which shows bird mortality rates leveling off. He stressed that earlier reports of a piping plover death were incorrect, and that no US endangered species have died. He did note, however, that in areas 80% of the plovers, and many terns, do have spots of oil on their bodies, but no birds seem to be ailing at this time.
  • The BBP is assembling past reports on clean-up progress and oil recovered, and will begin plotting these graphs. Please note they are incomplete, and we will update them as we get more Coast Guard summary pages.
  • The US Coast Guard has set up a permanent information booth in Fairhaven at the Hampton Inn. Information and handouts will be available, and personnel will be able to answer questions on claims,, etc.
  • Direct cleanup costs by the Coast Guard have reached $9.3 million dollars. As of yesterday, 184 financial claims have been filed, and Bouchard has stated they will begin mailing checks probably by Monday.

Thursday May 8 updates

  • Protection and cleanup of Ram Island, a key sea bird nesting site for Roseate Terns and other species, remains one of the top priorities for state and federal agencies in this cleanup operation. Excellent progress has been made, and good results obtained with a peat moss-cellulose absorbent. Members of Unified Command expect to inspect the site sometime today.
  • Bird mortality reported as of 15:00 May 7 was 243 dead, with 72 in Rehab.
  • In some areas oil has been covered by sand. Clean-up crews are implementing methods to identify and clean these areas.
  • Winds are expected to be from the SE at 15-20 knots shifting to the NE at 20-25 knots by the afternoon hours. Northeast winds are viewed as favorable because of lessened wave action on the water.
  • Tomorrows public meeting by DEP in New Bedford at 11 AM at the Whaling museum was discussed.
  • Press calls to the Coast Guard are asked to be directed to the Boston Office at 617-223-8515.
  • Bouchard Barge No. 120 may be departing for its home port today.
  • The USCG will publish advertisements in local papers in English and Portuguese on the financial claims process. The Coast Guard also describes the process in a Press Release.

Wednesday May 7 updates

At this morning’s briefing, new oilings were reported in Westport and Little Compton, Rhode Island, and re-oilings again along Sconticut Neck, West Island, and Long Island in Fairhaven parts of Mattapoisett. While most of these oilings are characterized as light, it demonstrates that fields of tar balls are still floating in parts of Buzzards Bay.

We have posted information on this website from Coast Guard briefings, and other sources to keep residents and volunteers, and agencies informed about cleanup activities. Please keep in mind that there is a 12-hour to 24-hour time lag between what we report here, and what the cleanup and assessment crews are actually working on. In one instance, we posted a morning report that an area was clean, but a new oiling occurred about the same time that we posted the information in the afternoon. If you find an area oiled, but there is no evidence of cleanup crews, certainly call in your observations to the Buzzards Bay Coalition number.

DEP is trying to put together a public informational meeting to explain the expected cleanup timeline, and to define what the clean-up end points will be (how clean is “clean”). As soon as we hear more information, we will post it.

We received a request from Wildlife personnel to stress that cleanup and protection priorities for bird nesting areas remain 1) Ram Island, Mattapoisett, 2) Bird Island, Marion, and 3) Penikese Island, Gosnold. They also asked us to note that Ram Island may now be the leading Roseate Tern Habitat in Buzzards Bay. Click on the graph to the right for more information.

Also, a Marion resident informed us that we incorrectly reported that Bird Island was unoiled yesterday (from the morning briefing). The resident reported oil yesterday afternoon on the Island. We believe the Island is now classified as lightly oiled.

Tuesday May 6, 2003 Updates

There were two big stories in today’s regional papers. One was the failure of the patch on the bottom of the Bouchard Barge No. 120 during transport through the canal late yesterday, resulting in a sheen of oil, and the temporary closure of the Cape Cod Canal to boat traffic for a couple of hours last night. The barge had been emptied, and no new discharges of oil had been believed to be released. The other continuing story was the race to save birds before they succumbed to the oil.

Bouchard No. 120 SCAT survey

Today was the first day of operations of the Coast Guard Incident Command Post at its new location at the Library at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in the village of Buzzards Bay. One of the efforts ongoing at the Command Post was the preparation of maps the degree of existing oiling around the shores of Buzzards Bay. The map to the right and below are examples showing the status as of May 3, 2 PM. This will give cleanup managers a better picture of clean-up needs, and will assist in evaluating the level of oil around Buzzards Bay when the cleanup is finished.

Bouchard No. 120 SCAT survey

As of 1 PM today, 207 birds have died. Of these 140 were dead on arrival, and 67 died after cleaning and rehabilitation attempts. Birds that have been cleaned and still alive are 78. None of the rehabilitated birds have been released. Perhaps another 60 or so birds are in various stages of decontamination. Have we reached peak mortality rates for aquatic birds in Buzzards Bay? This does not appear to be the case as shown by the graph below (bird death toll from Coast Guard press releases and other sources).

Bouchard No. 120 oil spill dead birds.


Report from Mass Audubon Dartmouth Field Station

In a late Monday evening report from Dr. Robert Buchsbaum of the Mass Audubon site near Allens Pond Dartmouth confirmed that the one oiled horseshoe crab that he personally saw this weekend was still alive. He noted that Mass Audubon Society personnel saw two recently dead oiled horseshoe crabs on Saturday. As we noted in yesterday’s updates, horseshoe crabs tend to come ashore to mate and lay eggs in the intertidal sands during May and June during “spring” tides (higher high tides during full and new moons). Thursday May 1st was the first new moon of May. May 16th is the first full moon, and we may see a large number of horseshoe crabs come ashore on about that date. Dr. Buchsbaum expressed concerns about whether horseshoe crabs could come ashore if snare boom is deployed.

Today, Dr. Buchsbaum found no oiled loons or waterfowl on the beach (dead or alive), and he is hopeful that bird mortality has peaked. He did observe many recently killed juvenile surf clams. Many were heavily coated with tar blobs, and still had their flesh inside. Some were still alive despite the heavy coating of tar.

The rocky shoreline at Barney’s Joy still looks similar to our web photo of Mishaum Point. He noted that blue mussels were heavily coated with oil in many places, as are barnacles, periwinkles and fucoids. He expects the blue mussels to die due to the exposure. He also saw some heavily oiled Asian shore crabs.

There remains some oil on the Allens Pond marsh in one spot, but he does not believe it is any worse than Friday, and the town constructed sand berm across the mouth of Allens Pond seems to be holding up.

Monday May 5, 2003 Updates

Bouchard No. 120 tar ball

This weekend there has been considerable progress in most areas, and labor is being redirected to the heaviest oiled sites. Over the weekend, isolated concentrations of tar balls (sticky oil globules that make pea size to palm size oil splatter on shore) sporadically arrived on western shore, generally between Westport and Fairhaven.

Spotters should continue reporting new arrivals of tar balls to the Coalition phone numbers. As noted in this mornings update below, areas off of Westport, Salter’s Point Dartmouth, Little Bay/Nasketucket Bay areas still have some sheen offshore which could indicate some floating tar balls, and these areas will need to be examined for any reoiling.

Later today this page will be updated with new pictures.

Report from Audubon Field Station, Dartmouth 12:30 PM Monday 5/5

Dr. Robert Buchsbaum of the Mass Audubon field station at Allens Pond Dartmouth reported this afternoon that the sand berm created by the Town of Dartmouth Conservation Commission to block the entrance of Allens Pond to exclude oil was breached slightly by the sea early Friday morning. A small quantity of oil, both the heavy fraction and the lighter surface skim did get into the inlet to the pond and was found covering a small section of salt marsh. The town rebuilt the berm on Friday and as of today it is still holding. Dr. Buchsbaum noted that the area oiled on Friday was not great, but he is concerned about another break in the berm, and more oil entering this wildlife refuge area.

Bouchard No. 120snare boom in use.

Dr. Buchsbaum also noted that they continue to see many oiled birds in the area, particularly the common loon. Nearly all the piping plovers (at least 16 birds that nest along the beaches adjacent to Allen’s Pond) have some oil on them. Mass Audubon has been monitoring the plovers daily using protocols developed by USFWS and the Mass DFW. They have also been monitoring Barney’s Joy beach and Little Beach for other oiled birds and for other marine creatures. Three oily horseshoe crabs have been found on the two beaches [Horseshoe Crabs come ashore to mate and lay eggs on beaches, in the intertidal zone during high tides during new and full moons during May and June in this area.]

Dr. Buchsabaum further reports that the cleanup of the sandy area at Barney’s Joy has been remarkable, but that the rocky area is still heavily oiled. It looked worse on Friday than earlier last week because of a heavy re-oiling. The wrack line of both beaches is littered with a steady stream of small (ca. 2-4 mm) tar balls.

On Saturday, the Buzzards Bay Coalition converted its State of the Bay conference into an oil spill briefing. Captain Mary Landry of the US Coast Guard briefed attendees on the response of the Coast Guard and partner State and Federal Agencies. Also speaking was Mike Hickey, of the Chief Shellfish Biologist of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries gave an overview of shellfish closures. Only shellfish harvesting is currently prohibited. Marine Fisheries will be testing lobsters harvested this weekend to determine their suitability for market.

Steve Lehman, representing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave an overview of No. 6 fuel oil, its impacts, and dispersal. Dr. Chris Reddy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution gave an a preliminary evaluation of this particular No. 6 oil. He found that the oil had a somewhat higher concentration of Naphthalenes than other No. 6 oils he has tested. These compounds, related to the compound used in mothballs, are somewhat soluble in water and known to be toxic to aquatic organisms.

Monday 5/5 Incident Command 8 AM briefing

Steve Lehmann at Bouchard No. 120 briefing.
  • Weather: Favorable conditions today, with light winds 5-7 knots from the SE to E
  • Bird Count: 128 dead, 64 under rehabilitation
  • 600+ cleanup personnel, 100+ in support, transport, and survey, plus 300+ in volunteer, municipal, and other agency positions.
  • incident command related cleanup expenses total $6.5 million as of today. this does not include State and Local expenses.
  • morning over flights showed sheens, possibly associated with tar ball fields, off Barneys Joy and Salters Point, Dartmouth New Bedford Harbor, Brant Island Mattapoisett, and East of Angelica Point
  • Ram Island, a key Roseate tern habitat is continued focus of intense cleanup. It had been heavily reoiled at the end of last week. Last night began using “Hazing canons” to scare off arriving terns. Federal agencies are trying to set up more Roseate tern nesting boxes on Penikese Island in an area the state has been trying to expand for Tern nesting. Because of the deployment of miles of protective snare booming around Penikese, the Island remained virtually unoiled. The other Roseate Tern nesting sites, Bird Island in Marion has not been oiled. [Note: this was later changed to lightly oiled.]
  • The US Coast Guard will begin meeting with local officials to assure them that all their expended boom will be replaced, provide paperwork to be reimbursed for overtime costs of fire departments, harbor masters, and other responders, and to ensure they have the proper phone contacts for information and activity.
  • Incident Command is moving off the Mass Military Reservation today to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay village, Bourne, and will be full operational by Tuesday morning at the new location. New phone numbers will be announced.
  • There have been only three injuries since the start of operations, all minor. One was a slip and fall, one was sunscreen and sand in the eye, and one was dehydration.

Friday May 2 10:30 PM

Today’s good news was that a SCAT visited a large number of sites along Naushon Island and a low altitude (60 feet) helicopter aerial survey was conducted. These survey teams found no evidence of oil on Naushon. Earlier in the week, it was believed that oil was patchily distributed across the north face of the Island based on a phoned in report. Another bright spot was Falmouth and Bourne, in which the limited number of sites affected were largely cleaned up.

Today’s bad news was that oil came ashore in new areas of Marion, Mattapoisett, and Wareham, and a heavy re-oiling of some previously cleared beaches in Fairhaven along Sconticut neck and West Island. Below are some details from the 4 PM briefing. We included in the map 8 PM updates on more widespread oilings in Wareham, most of which were light.

Friday May 2 4:00 PM briefing summary highlights

  • reoiling of Nyes Neck, West Island, and Sconticut Neck
  • 375 involved with cleanup activities, 500 will be involved by 6 AM Saturday, scaling up to 700 total
  • Bird impacts: 52 dead, 54 rehabilitated, 50 captured [note: we are unsure if the captured are waiting cleaning]. The most common bird in rehab is the Common Loon. of the 52 dead, 44 were DOA, 8 after rescue and rehabilitation attempts. We believe there is at least 1 piping plover dead. [The original reports proved incorrect.]
  • Some Roseate Terns may have arrived, but this is not yet confirmed
  • Scraggy Neck has been cleaned, and Wild Harbor nearly cleaned, crew to be transferred west
  • some lobster pots will be hauled out this weekend and lobsters tested by Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
  • helicopter survey found no new areas in Rhode Island (5 miles down coast)
  • Weather is again changing. Winds today were S 10-15 knots today, strong North winds expected Saturday.


Friday May 2 8:59 AM

Yesterday morning, we reported that we believed that Penikese Island was heavily oiled based on the location of the slick and the level of activity around the island by cleanup officials who were attempting to deploy miles of snare boom around the Island. This effort apparently paid off, because as of yesterday, little oil had come ashore on the Island according to Coast Guard field reports from yesterday afternoon. The western shores of Buzzards Bay remain the hardest hit overall by the oil, rather than the Elizabeth Island chain, but a full assessment by SCAT team members has not been made.

The Coast Guard is considering moving the Incident Command Center to a site off the Military Reservation.

From the Thursday May 1st 4 PM Oil Response Center Briefing

from notes taken by Tracy Warncke, BBP

The 6:00 a.m. flyover: sheens and tar balls were spotted around Naushon. Winds were from the south.

The tarballs are now too dispersed in many areas to recover effectively with skimming operations. In areas where they break open, they cause a “sheen” on the water. The SCAT Teams report that Mattapoisett Harbor and Aucoot Cove are heavily impacted. Gooseberry Neck has tarballs on the East side of the Breach by the Western Bathhouse. Demerest Lloyd State Park has 3000 ft of beach impacted and oil is still coming in off the water.

Angelica Point, Mattapoisett is clean. Crews on West Island report that a tremendous amount of cleanup took place today and it is not as bad as it was yesterday. Sconticut Neck and Winsegansett look OK.

There are 7 recovery vessels (skimmers and other vessels) working on Buzzards Bay. About 250 people have been deployed bay wide along shore with booms and snares to collect and trap oil, and in shore side cleanup.

Tomorrow, another 100 shoreline cleanup personnel will be added to sites around Buzzards Bay site. The heaviest impacts are on the western shore of Buzzards Bay. Some areas that were impacted and cleaned are being re-oiled. The most significantly impacted areas today are Marion, Sippican and Mattapoisett Harbors. A minor amount of tarballs were reported in RI.

Tens of thousands of feet of snare was laid today. They are using no other absorbents. 1000 feet of hard boom was laid.

Bird and Penikese Islands have had minor amounts of oil land.

The western front of Ram Island has been impacted, fortunately the Roseate Terns don’t use this side to nest. Ram Island was wrapped with a triple layer of snare. Unfortunately, the wind and waves caused the tarballs to overflow the snare. Additionally the shear number of tarballs overwhelmed the snare. Tern experts will be on hand tomorrow as manual cleanup begins. This will ensure that the tern population will not be disturbed as this is the start of their nesting season. 50-60% of the Roseate tern population of the Northern hemisphere nest on Bird Island Marion, and Ram Island, Mattapoisett.

There were no accidents or injuries to any deployed personnel.

There will be an information session at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford on Saturday from 8 – 12 with a UIC (Unified Incident Command) briefing to be held at 9:00. Representatives from the United States Coast Guard, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Buzzards Bay Coalition, Mass. Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Mass. Department of Environmental Protection will be on hand to answer any and all questions.

Additionally, there will be a Claims Representative on hand to help those who have financial losses due to the spill.

May 1 Information

On May 1, at 8 AM, a resident of Dartmouth reported that oil washed ashore at Salters Point, and the presence oiled sea birds. This is significant because it is an oil landing from a different direction than most of the first landings. This new oiling reflects the redirection of winds from North to Southeast in the last 48 hours, as compared to the West and Southwest winds early in the week. Press reports state that some oil passed a precautionary boom and entered Little River.

Under emergency wetland regulation provisions, the Dartmouth Conservation Commission filled off and bermed the entrance of Allens Pond, a sensitive protected salt marsh estuary near Barneys Joy on either April 30 or May 1. Mass Audubon, with a wildlife sanctuary on the site, concurred with this emergency measure. Dr. Robert Buchsbaum of Mass Audubon estimated 75% of the Piping Plovers in the area had some oil, as well as many nests, but he did not believe there were any mortalities at the nest sites near the Audubon facility.

As of 9:30 AM April 30, all of Buzzards Bay was closed to shellfishing by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. Formerly only the lower two-thirds of the bay were closed. The affected towns of Marion, Mattapoisett, Wareham, and Bourne have been notified. DMF stated that the closures may be only for 5 to 10 days for lightly oil areas after most water born oil is collected.

April 30 Meeting with Municipal Officials

At 4 PM Wednesday, at the Incident Response Center on the Massachusetts Military Reservation, Coast Guard officials and federal and state clean-up coordinators met with about 30 Buzzards Bay municipal officials involved with cleanup and protection efforts. The group included Harbormasters, Fire Chiefs, and Shellfish Wardens.

The purpose of the meeting was to brief the municipalities on clean-up efforts, describe where oil landings had occurred, to describe the cleanup up process, and to discuss any communication problems. At the meeting, the Coast Guard also briefly described how municipalities would be reimbursed for their expenses, and offered to assist municipalities in the decontamination of their oil boom equipment. The Coast Guard provided the municipal officials with phone numbers to get information about claims, oil impacts, and wildlife issues. They also stated they would continue to hold daily 4 PM briefings for these municipal oil responders and natural resource personnel.

Municipalities were notified of the spill by Massachusetts DEP generally between 5 and 6 in the morning, Monday April 28. After the municipalities received notification about the spill, the Coast Guard acknowledged that communication with the towns about their clean-up efforts during the first 24 hours could have been better, but stressed that they are now integrated into the cleanup effort. The official further stated that they recognized the towns were important stakeholders in the cleanup, and commended the towns for being so well prepared. One of the cleanup coordinators noted that a team was sent to deploy a precautionary boom around a sensitive area, but upon arrival, discovered that the town had already boomed off the site. He commended the town in their preparedness, and noted that he did not realize that Buzzards Bay municipal harbormasters and fire departments already had that volume of oil containment boom. The Coast Guard did request that municipalities should now call the Incident Response Center before they deploy any boom.

Coast Guard Incident Status Report as of 16:00 4/30

Oil Captured:

  • 2000 dewatered gallons of oil skimmed
  • 100 cubic yards of beach material (oil not yet quantified)
  • snare boom collected (oil not yet quantified)

Reported Impacts on Birds and Mammals

  • 22 captured birds undergoing treatment
  • 12 birds spotted stressed
  • 6 dead
  • boat assessment of seals may already be underway

Cleanup Activity

  • 6,500 feet of containment boom deployed
  • 45,000 feet of snare boom deployed
  • 160 person cleanup crew in action, another 30-40 to be added by evening, 50 were on Barneys Joy, 50 on Sconticut Neck Fairhaven
  • 1000 bags of oil debris collected from Barneys Joy
  • maintaining protective boom at 14 sites
  • 35 trained volunteers for bird assessment and rehabilitation
  • 300 volunteers organized by the Coalition on non-cleanup support activities
  • 60-80 in unified command, which includes field Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams
  • a helicopter running near continuous daylight surveys
  • 2 skimmer vessels and collection barges and 9 small boat assessment crews, another large skimmer will arrive from New York on Thursday morning. More oil was skimmed today than yesterday because of better sea conditions.
  • 140 cleanup sites are being targeted

Locations of Oil on Land and Sea and other Activities

The oil is too broken up and dispersed in many areas to recover by skimming operations. The Coast Guard no longer considers the spill a “slick.” Instead, there are areas with an accumulation of oil pancakes or tar balls. In mid afternoon, patches of tarballs 1/3 to 1/2 mile across were observed near Cleveland Ledge, 1.5 miles west of North Falmouth and to the SW near Gong 11, west of Mattapoisett. The previous night, Marion Harbormaster Charles Bradley observed a 30 to 40 foot wide line of oil stretching from 1 mile west of Bird Island to several miles to the north, “like a black marker line” across the water.

The Coast Guard has received reports of a sheen flowing through Robinsons and Quicks Holes into Vineyard Sound. They are sending bales of snare boom to the Vineyard as a precautionary measure. No appreciable oil is expected on Falmouth’s south coast at this time.

Ram Island and Bird Island, nesting sites for the endangered Roseate Tern, have been surrounded by Snare Boom as a protection strategy. Penikese Island has been reportedly heavily oiled [later proven lightly oiled], and efforts are being made to deploy snare boom along large swaths of the Island. A similar attempt may be made on the Weepeckets, another important bird rookery and seal haul out, but Penikese must be finished first. The north shore of Naushon and Nashawena Islands have been reported patchily oiled across large areas by those in residence, but the amount of oil has not been assessed. The Coast Guard will deploy assessment teams in the next day or two to these Islands.

Uncollected No. 6 oil will remain as tar balls of various size, which will slowly break into ever smaller tar balls in time. The tar ball forms as lighter volatile hydrocarbons evaporate, leaving a shell of paraffin wax with sticky oil inside.

Wind was from the North to Northeast today, but will switch to the Southwest by the weekend. The frequent shifting wind directions continue to make oil landfalls hard to predict.

The Assessment Teams will begin deploying flag markers of different colors on Thursday along beaches to facilitate clean-up. They will look like the type used to flag underground pipes and cabling. If you come across these on your property, please do not remove them.

Other new oil landings on April 30:

Stony Point Dike (Wareham)

South Beach (Scraggy Neck, Bourne)

Seal Lane (Near South Beach, Scraggy Neck Bourne)

Mashnee Island (Bourne)

Piping Plover adults and nests, an endangered species, were oiled in Westport.

On Monday April 28, the Buzzards Bay Municipal Oil Spill Coordinators were mobilized across Buzzards Bay. The Buzzards Bay Coalition began using citizen volunteers to act as spotters for oil landings on the coast and to assist in animal rescue. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries closed Buzzards Bay to shellfishing from a line from Angelica Point, Mattapoisett to Nyes Neck, Falmouth, southward to the Rhode Island border. The entire bay is now closed to shellfishing.

[Note: The April 30 posted information is the first date saved and included on this page. News of the oil spill was first reported on TV and radio broadcasts around 6-7 AM on April 28. On April 28 and April 29, the Buzzards Bay NEP website was in rapid flux with new information posted on sometimes an hourly basis as we received information from area residents and the agencies assessing the spill. Some of the graphs illustrated have information subsequent to the date of the update because the same graphics file name was used as the information was updated.]