On Monday, March 6th Director McDougall, after visiting the scene, found that there was a significant sheen from the vessel, and made contact with the Department of Ecology. DOE stated they were working with the US Coast Guard and with the Department of Natural Resources to develop a strategy to mitigate the situation. The Department of Ecology has created a webpage specifically devoted to this incident to allow the public to track its progress. http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/incidents/HeroSinkingBayCenter/
On March 6, the USCG opened a federal fund for spill response and clean-up and hired a contractor to respond to the scene and remove petroleum products on-board the vessel and mitigate the environmental hazard. That contractor was on scene March 7.
The following information was supplied by DOE:
- The contractor hired by the US Coast Guard, Global Diving & Salvage, determined that they would not put divers into the water due to the condition of the HERO (list, debris, stability, current, etc.). We were able to gain access onto the HERO via the port side of the vessel.
- All accessible fill ports and vents were measured. Once it was verified that no fuel/oil was in a “port,” they were either shut and sealed, or plugged. As the tide dropped, more vents/ports became accessible and the same technique was used to close them off.
- While continuing the assessment, it became apparent that most of the sheen was originating from a mid-ship vault. We decided the best way to minimize that release was to deploy absorbent sweep and boom around the inside of the vessel’s deck, at which point the sheen coming from there dropped 50-75%. Further investigation uncovered a hydraulic system (pump, tank and lines) with approx. 30-35 gallons of pure product, of which all was removed.
- At approximately 3:00 p.m., the weather worsened and operations were shut down. Global removed and replaced all of the absorbent sweeps/booms before disembarking the Hero.
- The plan now is to leave the sweep/boom in place for a couple days and then return to remove/replace until product is no longer being recovered by the absorbents. The USCG will be checking on the vessel each day.
- A note of caution: A total of 60-70 gallons of petroleum products were removed, but there is still potential for more to be aboard. Some of the vents/ports were not accessible and would not be unless the vessel is refloated or removed from the water.
PCEMA would like to stress that Pacific County does not have the statutory authority to respond to or direct an incident of this nature, however, PCEMA will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as they become available. Questions may be directed to PCEMA Director Scott McDougall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 875-9338.