Coast Guard responds to oil spill in Hilo Harbor

HONOLULU — U.S. Coast Guard pollution investigators were on scene Friday, April 10, in Hilo Harbor in response to a small oil spill.

The Coast Guard was notified at 5 a.m. Thursday of a stationary sheen stretching from piers one and two in the harbor to more than 200 yards off shore.

Coast Guard investigators from Marine Safety Detachment, Hawaii, on the Big Island, immediately responded to the scene of the incident. Investigators estimated that approximately 250 gallons of red-dye marine diesel from an unknown source caused the sheen.

Using money from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (under authorization of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990), the Coast Guard hired Pacific Environmental Corporation (PENCO) to conduct the cleanup. PENCO is on scene with small boats and personnel on shore.

Recovery operations commenced this morning immediately after a safety briefing at first light. Divers in the water collected what was left of the oil today. Coast Guard investigators collected samples and sent them to the National Marine Safety Lab for analysis.

The thin fuel, a type of marine diesel, appears red on the surface of the water. Generally, marine diesel fuels dissipate, evaporate or burn away quickly.

An HH-65 dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point was launched at 1:30 p.m.Thursday, to document and evaluate the situation. On Thursday and Friday, most of the oil had been collected with absorbent pads.

The Coast Guard is working closely with state and county officials and with the Honolulu-based Clean Islands Council. On Thursday, Coast Guard — and contracted responders — immediately deployed boom, which is a protective barrier placed on the water to prevent the spread of oil and other pollutants.

“The Coast Guard and its partners recognize the value of being prepared in oil spill events,” said Chief Petty Officer Dustin Widman, a pollution investigator and incident management specialist stationed at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu.

“Fortunately, the Coast Guard trains frequently with state and county oil spill response partners and as a direct result from that preparation, we were able to respond quickly to this situation.”

The source of the oil is currently under investigation.

“We are working to determine the extent and the source of the pollution,” said Widman.

The Coast Guard advises any boat owners who may have suffered damages as a result of this oil spill to contact the National Pollution Funds Center at 800-280-7118 or 202-493-6830 or by email at or by visiting

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