Operation Clean Sheen: Preventing pollution on the New Jersey coast

As a dark enveloped fogged rolled through the sleepy harbor, the malodorous odor of shell fish saturated the air. Ample, seasoned fishing boats, stacked together along the dock, moved in motion as the tide came into the basin.

The fishing boats sat languishing and forgotten at dusk, awaiting the keepers to awaken their rusty antiquated engines and set out for another day of production.

As the boats sleep in the harbor, a two-man crew keeps a steady watch protecting the environment as the dusk turns to night.

These two people are crewmembers of the Maritime All-Hazard Response Team at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia, and are part of a eight person team participating in Operation Clean Sheen at the sector.

Operation Clean Sheen’s objectives are to reduce pollution spills coming from vessels and facilities and increase pollution prevention awareness among vessels, marinas, port partners and the boating public.

“This is a month-long operation we are conducting along with Coast Guard Station Atlantic City, N.J., and Coast Guard Air Station in Atlantic City, to prevent incidents from happening with oil, fuel or any illegal discharge or reports of sheen,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Baines, a crewmember of the Maritime All-Hazard Response team at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay.

During the past two years, there has been more than seventeen reports of oil sheens or oil discharges made to the Coast Guard, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the National Response Center.

“Most of the vessels at these docks have a tank capacity of over 10,500 gallons,” said Baines. “That much fuel or oil could be the root of any oil spill in the area that has occurred.”

In most cases, a responsible party is never located and the cleanups cost a significant amount of tax payer money and agency assets to execute. It is estimated that the total cost to taxpayers for these clean ups has been more than $200 thousand dollars during the two-year period.

“Our presence here is to educate the fishermen and let them know they don’t have to be afraid to notify the Coast Guard,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Max Remillard, a crewmember of the Maritime All-Hazard Response team at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay.

The education part of the operation that took place is the first week of the month-long operation. This included local marinas, commercial fishing vessel captains, facilities and the public on pollution laws and reporting procedures.

“We handed out packets, phone numbers and stickers and patrolled the harbors,” said Remillard. “The first week was strictly education. The big things is, if you walk around, people start telling you things because they do care. It is easy to outreach if they see us.”

The other part of the operation was observation and enforcement. After the in-depth education campaign, the MAHR team began day and night patrols to look for illegal discharging or unsafe practices. This phase also included daily patrols waterside by Station Atlantic City and several over flights by Air Station Atlantic City showing a united Coast Guard presence in the area.

“We have definitely made them aware the Coast Guard is here and we have our eyes open,” said Baines. “We also want to deal with them face to face, we want people to be comfortable with the Coast Guard and know we are here to help them and potentially save them money in the long run.”

In conclusion, Coast Guard units participating in Operation Clean Sheen spent the first two weeks of April visiting every vessel, facility, mobile transfer unit and business in the area distributing informational packets and educating personnel on pollution prevention and reporting requirements. This effort included posting placards at all waterfront locations, assisting vessels and facilities in posting pollution information and teaching vessel and facility personnel how to identify and report a spill, discharge or sheen to the National Response Center. The effort also focused on putting a Coast Guard face on pollution prevention and giving the maritime community someone to call with questions or concerns. MAHR members were in the area daily and Coast Guard Station Atlantic City provided daily waterside patrols. Over 50 educational packets were distributed to waterfront facilities and it is estimated over 200 mariners or waterfront facility workers were educated.

“This first of its kind, pollution surge operation was highly successful at educating the maritime community in Atlantic City on pollution prevention techniques and reporting requirements,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Fine, Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay’s Deputy of Incident Management. “I cannot say enough about the efforts of the Maritime-All Hazards Response team who worked around the clock for a month to ensure the success of Operation Clean Sheen and improve the waterways in Atlantic City for all stakeholders.”

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