Coast Guard, partner agencies respond to Potomac River sheen

5th Coast Guard District NewsBALTIMORE — The Coast Guard and partner agencies are responding to reports of oil sheens in the Potomac River near Arlington, Virginia, and extending south approximately eight miles.

The first report of the rainbow-colored sheen came at approximately 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, followed by additional reports attributed to the same sheen.

Preliminary investigation has identified a potential discharge from an outfall in the vicinity of Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, but responders believe recent rainfall and heavy snowmelt may have also contributed oily runoff to the waterway, said Chief Petty Officer Joshua Miller, the all-hazards branch chief with Coast Guard Sector Baltimore.

Involved agencies have used a combination of overflights, boat patrols and landside patrols during the response.

Cleanup contractors placed two layers of sorbent boom and sorbent sweeps to contain and recover the product found around the outfall. Additionally, Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research has been called in to assist with the care of 10 geese found in the area.

“This is a complex situation compounded by the residual snowfall, recent precipitation and multiple avenues of impact to the river,” said Miller. “Our hope is the combined efforts of the Coast Guard, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and District Office of Energy and Environment will quickly resolve this situation.”

With no confirmed source, the Coast Guard has taken the lead as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator to access the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Determining the type of product causing the sheen is a challenge due to all the recent snowmelt and rain, said Lt. David Ruhlig, the incident management division chief at Coast Guard Sector Baltimore. Investigators are working to identify the type of product but are challenged by the possibility of multiple products for various sources. We have sent samples out for laboratory analysis. It might be a couple of days until we get the results, said Ruhlig.

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