Process begins for removal of vessels displaced in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria

SAN JUAN – The Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard in conjunction with the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Control Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have stood up an Emergency Support Function 10 (ESF 10) command post in Puerto Rico, with the mission of overseeing the assessment, mitigation and removal of hazardous substances and vessels from Puerto Rico’s ports and waterways in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Currently, response teams are in the field conducting assessments of the commonwealth to include the ports and waterways and mitigating pollution in the maritime environment. “As we conduct these assessments, our first priority is the safety of our responders as well as the health and welfare of the public affected by these potential hazards,” said Coast Guard CDR Kelly Thorkilson, Incident Commander for the ESF 10 Incident Command Post. ESF 10 is the framework by which federal support is coordinated with state agencies in response to actual or potential oil spills or hazardous material releases. “Our main objective is to establish a vessel identification strategy and carry out a thorough hazard mitigation including displaced vessels as a result of the hurricane.”

During these assessments, a higher priority will be placed on vessels found to be actively leaking pollution. As teams locate emergent pollution situations, immediate action will be taken to contain the material and remove it from the environment.

Damaged vessels are being tagged by assessment teams with a large red sticker requesting those owners contact (786) 521-3900, a vessel hotline established by the ESF 10 command post in Puerto Rico to either report their vessel’s removal or to request Coast Guard guidance in its removal.

An outreach program under the ESF 10 mission will attempt to reach as many vessel owners as possible by local news, radio, television, social media outlets, telephone and direct contact, given the understanding that a majority of residents are still without power, Internet or cellular connectivity.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.