State gives towns oil spill response trailers
While everyone knows that oil and water don't mix, the six Island towns soon will be ready to separate the two, thanks to oil spill emergency response trailers that will be provided at no cost by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) next month.
The state program is providing the trailers to all Massachusetts coastline communities to ensure they will have state-of-the-art equipment for use in mitigating the impacts of a marine oil spill. Acting director Edmund J. Coletta Jr., MassDEP Public Affairs Office, said he expects the trailers will be delivered to the Island towns sometime in August.
According to a MassDEP press release, funding used to purchase and stock the emergency response trailers comes from the Oil Spill Act Response and Prevention Trust Fund. The state's Oil Spill Act was signed into law in 2004 in response to a massive oil spill that occurred the previous year.
On April 27, 2003, a barge owned by Bouchard Transportation struck rocks off Gooseberry Point in Westport, spilling about 98,000 gallons of fuel oil into the Buzzards Bay. As a result, the state included provisions in its Oil Spill Act for setting up a trust fund to receive two cents for every barrel of petroleum shipped into Massachusetts since September 2004. Monies from the fund may be used to improve and enhance marine oil spill response and prevention, provide emergency loans, and pay damage claims. The fund now totals $4 million, MassDEP reports.
An oil spill emergency response trailer. Photo courtesy of MassDEP
The trust fund also is being used to help communities draft Geographic Response Plans (GRPs), which include maps and aerial photographs depicting roads, topography, sensitive wildlife habitats, and recommended locations for deploying oil containment booms.
Tisbury's fire chief John Schilling announced the news about the gift of the trailers at a selectmen's meeting on July 10. He said he was caught off-guard when he received a phone call from Fleet Environmental Services asking where he would like the oil spill response trailer delivered, and said, "What trailer?"
Although Chief Schilling said he was happy about the town receiving such a valuable gift, there were a few bugs to work out before the trailer's arrival, such as how to tow it, where to store it, and how to secure it. Harbormaster Jay Wilbur said his truck would be able to tow it, and the selectmen agreed to store the trailer in the old department of public works garage for the time being.
The 8- by 20-foot trailers contain thousands of feet of boom materials, floats and anchors, absorbent pads, storm drain plugs, life vests, and personal protection equipment. Mr. Coletta said "snare booms" are an example of one of the trailer's wares, designed to capture oil on the surface and just below it. Made up of strands of highly absorbable recycled plastic, he said they resemble a cheerleader's pom-poms.
In addition to the trailers, the state is providing eight hours of oil spill first-responder training, Chief Schilling said. He suggested that it would make sense to contact the other Island towns and set up a shared training day.
The trailers, including equipment, cost about $20,000 each. Although it certainly would be possible for Island towns to share trailers, Mr. Coletta said the decision was made to provide all of them with a trailer since each has its own fire department. In the event of an oil spill, it would be better to have all of the Island towns respond, he added.
MassDEP estimates the total cost of the program statewide, including the trailers, equipment, and training, is approximately $700,000. The emergency response trailers were previously delivered to all of the communities on Buzzards Bay, including Bourne, and Falmouth.
In addition to providing the trailers and training, Mr. Coletta said MassDEP will maintain the trailers and replenish any supplies used at no cost to towns through funds from the Oil Spill Trust Fund.
In late June, Mass DEP acting commissioner Arleen O'Donnell presented the first trailer to the town of Barnstable in a special ceremony. Trailer deliveries to 18 other communities on Cape Cod and the islands will be followed by deliveries to communities on Boston's north and south shores, Mr. Coletta said. MassDEP plans to continue the program to deliver trailers and train first responders in all coastal communities over the next two to three years.
"Although we hope the trailers never have to be used, we want everyone to be ready, just in case," Mr. Coletta said.