Mar-Gun oil removal responders shift tactics, progress continues

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Due to weather conditions responders are changing their tactics today to remove the remaining 1,700 gallons of oils on board the fishing vessel Mar-Gun grounded on St. George Island in Western Alaska.

Low temperatures, strong winds, surf conditions and icing since Friday have prompted responders to utilize drums and a commercial helicopter to remove the remaining oil. Transfer hoses and two pumps were employed to remove about 17,195 gallons of oils from the vessel to a mobile tank on shore last week.

“Utilizing the helicopter and transferring the product in smaller loads will reduce the hazards to our responders and the environment,” said Cmdr. Joseph LoSciuto, deputy commander Sector Anchorage and the federal on-scene coordinator for the response. “The weather conditions we’re encountering present a risk to the safety of our responders and an undesired delay to our operation. This new approach should allow us to continue making progress while addressing those concerns.”

Winds on scene today remain out of the northeast at about 23 mph with seas up to 10 feet and freezing spray. The air temperature may reach a high of 20 degrees but is expected drop into the teens Friday and through the weekend.

Crews have consolidated the remaining diesel, lube and hydraulic oil for removal into a single tank aboard the vessel. Crews will pump directly into drums that will be airlifted to the shore by helicopter.

Approximately 800 gallons of diesel and 100 gallons of lube oil will remain on board and be used in the Mar-Gun’s generators during the recovery effort. The vessel recovery effort is weather dependant. Temperatures below freezing have brought the winter sea ice down below St. Paul Island toward the vessel’s location.

According to the response operations chief on scene, sea ice will reduce the wave height but could inhibit deployment of ground tackle and the use of winches.

The responders on scene held a meeting with the community of St. George Wednesday to explain the progress made, the shift in tactics and address any concerns and interest.

“The community has been very positive and involved in our efforts,” said Gary Folley, Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation and state on scene coordinator. “The unified command, working with the responsible party, was able to donate more than 2,000 gallons of diesel to the village.”

According to LoSciuto the donation of the diesel was a “win-win” situation, “The donation made it possible to do something positive for the village and that’s 2,000 gallons of fuel that doesn’t need to be removed from the island.”

Responders, with support from the National Weather Service and NOAA, are maintaining a close watch on conditions. There have been no injuries to responders and no oiled shoreline or wildlife sighted during operations or recent beach surveys.

Development of a subsistence sampling plan is continuing. It will be implemented following the recovery of Mar-Gun.

The Mar-Gun grounded on Staraya Beach located at the north end of St. George Island March 5. The crew was safely delivered to St. Paul a few hours after the grounding by Coast Guard helicopter.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Pollution mitigation efforts continue aboard the fishing vessel Mar-Gun grounded on the north end of St. George Island. The vessel grounded March 5, 2009. North winds and below freezing tempratures have caused icing on the vessel and prompted responders to shift tactics for oil removal March 18,2009. (Coast Guard photo by MST2 Gerald Holle)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Pollution mitigation efforts continue aboard the fishing vessel Mar-Gun grounded on the north end of St. George Island. The vessel grounded March 5, 2009. North winds and below freezing tempratures have caused icing on the vessel and prompted responders to shift tactics for oil removal March 18,2009. (Coast Guard photo by MST2 Gerald Holle)

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