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Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program

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 brieifings. 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.

New Incident Command for Bouchard No. 120 oil spill 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 LEMENTATION 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: 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 misidentification 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

Thursday, October 16

Based on the announcement from the Division of Marine Fisheries to Buzzards Bay town officials (click here to read the annoucement), 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 misclassifications 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]

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]
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

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.]

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]

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

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:

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]
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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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

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.]

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]

Wednesday May 28 updates and 8 AM Briefing Notes

[author's comments in brackets]

Tuesday, May 27 Updates and 8 AM briefing notes

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]

Thursday May 22 Updates and 8 AM Briefing Notes

[side comments by author in brackets]

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.

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

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]

Friday May 16, 8 AM Briefing highlights

Thursday May 15, 8 AM Briefing highlights

Bouchard No. 120 SCAT Map May 2003

Wednesday May 14, 8 AM updates

[the authors editorial comments in brackets]

Tuesday May 13 updates

Monday May 12, 8 AM Briefing

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

Thursday May 8 updates

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.

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

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:

Reported Impacts on Birds and Mammals

Cleanup Activity

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.]