Coast Guard, other environmental response agencies to practice recovering oil from icy water

9th Coast Guard District NewsCLEVELAND ― Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, oil spill response organizations, Enbridge Energy Partners and several other agencies are scheduled to participate in a unique exercise out of St. Ignace, Mich., Monday through Wednesday, during which several techniques for recovering spilled oil and other hazardous materials from icy waterways will be tested and evaluated.

While the Coast Guard frequently trains for spill recovery throughout the country, this will be the first time the service has practiced such activities in icy water.

Members of the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, based in Groton, Conn., have been studying multiple recovery options for the unique conditions prevalent during Great Lakes winters. The goal of this project will be to evaluate the effectiveness of those options by recovering small amounts of peat moss and oranges, environmentally-friendly oil surrogates, from the icy waters. The results could also be useful for future responses in the Arctic.

“Fortunately, it’s been about nine years since we’ve needed to recover a large amount of oil from an ice-covered waterway in this region, but as responders we all need to be prepared for potential accidents year round and know how to address the unique challenges we face here,” said Capt. Joseph McGuiness, commander of Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. “This collaboration is an invaluable opportunity for all the responders to come together to share our best practices, learn from each other and practice working alongside one another to safeguard the public and the environment.”

Four vessels will be involved in the project. The Port Huron, Mich., based Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock, a buoy tender with ice-breaking capabilities, will deploy and evaluate a new Coast Guard cold-weather skimming system. Additionally, three commercial tugboats will deploy commercial responders and equipment.

In addition, Enbridge Energy Partners will be deploying responders on the shoreline for training, vessels for use during demonstration and helicopter overflights.

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