How do you report an oil spill?

On April 5, 2017, Michael started his very first beached bird survey on Jacobsen Jetty South near Tokeland in Pacific County, WA. April is usually a quiet time of year for COASST and COASSTers, with few beached birds other than the occasional Common Murre. However, in Michael’s first survey he literally found a smoking gun – a small oil spill on the beach. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to document the spill with careful photos and description, which were transmitted to the COASST office, and from us to the WA Department of Ecology, the state agency in charge of handling these types of spills.

Photo Credit: M. Heikkinen

Dave Byers, the Oil Spill Response Section Manager at the WA Department of Ecology, informed us that two spill responders were dispatched to investigate and size-up the scene. Due to the large amount of oiled sediment and debris, Ecology hired a clean-up contractor to respond, remove and safely dispose of the contaminated material. Here they are in action!

Photo Credit: WA Dept of Ecology

The spill responders believe that the oil was from a waste-oil container that was tossed or washed overboard from a vessel.  It also appeared that oil from the container was intentionally emptied on the beach after the container washed ashore. It’s very lucky that Michael was there to document and report, and it’s a great reminder to always proceed with caution if you find a chemical container.

What should you do if you find a fresh oil or hazardous material spill on your beach?
Dave Byers at the WA Department of Ecology suggests documenting your location, the type and approximate volume (or areal spread) of oil, distance from the water, and what coastal resources are impacted by the oil. As always, carefully photo-document!! You can also use the COASST protocol for oiling (page 2-11, protocol version 3.0). All of this information will help authorities determine what resources are necessary for responding to the incident.

Any of the numbers below can be used to report the spill:

  • 1-800-OILS-911 works anywhere along the coast of North America.  It is a 24-hour hotline which will recognize where the call is originating and connect with the appropriate state or province Emergency Management Office.  This works in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California.
  • 1-800-424-8802 connects you to the U.S. National Response Center. Information taken from callers is passed to the appropriate state and federal response agencies.
  • 1-800-258-5994 connects you 24/7 to Washington Emergency Management which serves as the after-hour dispatcher for Ecology Responders.

And of course, you can always call or email COASST, and we will also pass on your information.

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