Darkness, ground conditions force crews to suspend Jetport oil spill cleanup efforts

Well, the darkness and wet conditions that kept me from being able to see anything going on in the waters around the Portland International Jetport earlier tonight finally got to be too much for the folks leading the clean-up and containment efforts as well.

Here’s the latest I’ve gotten from Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Samantha DePoy-Warren, who has been tremendously informative and up-to-speed on all that’s going on with the 600-gallon spill, much of which made it to the Fore River:

As night and the rain falls and the darkness and ground conditions prevent meaningful further progress tonight, Maine Department of Environmental Protection responders along with representatives from fellow state agencies Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and the Department of Maine Resources and our response partners including contractor Clean Harbors, the Coast Guard, the Portland Fire Department and the Jetport have suspended the bulk of their containment and clean-up efforts at the Portland Jetport following the 600 gallon No. 2 heating oil spill there this morning.  Low tide has left the area largely unreachable by boat at this time and so the Fore River is only reachable via a steep (and apparently very slippery) embankment.

Clean Harbors continues to vactor fuel out of the retention pond where some of the fuel was captured, and responders used sorbent pads this afternoon and evening to soak up the fuel in the cove on the Fore River where much of it went (the cove is not accessible by vehicle, hence the use of the sorbent pads which responders carried over the embankment down to the shoreline). An extensive network of containment boom and sorbent booms has been put in place, and will remain overnight until their effectiveness can be reassessed in the morning.

Barbara Parker, DEP’s Director of Response Services, who helped coordinate response efforts in the Gulf Coast following the BP spill, visited the scene this evening and said the coordinated response has thus far been “amazingly effective” and already a substantial amount of fuel has been recovered from the retention pond and cove, noting additionally that a natural eddy in the cove has helped to trap much of the fuel there and largely prevented the spill from further impacting the Fore River, the Thompson Point Marsh and Long Creek and its watershed. It was observed that some fuel did reach the marsh and Clean Harbors will work off a boat tomorrow using absorbent pads to clean any impact there, which will likely be more apparent after the incoming tide tonight refloats that oil.

IF&W and DMR conducted shoreline surveys for impacts to habitat and wildlife and report that no wildlife impacts were observed or expected.

Regular training exercises and planning sessions with many of the parties involved in today’s efforts have helped ensure the collaborative response was well-coordinated and effective even under difficult conditions include the heavy rains and difficult to access shoreline. This is one of nearly 3,000 spills the DEP is called to annually, so Maine and its environment are lucky to have such experienced, talented responders out there providing protections like we’ve seen today.

Responders are expected to return tomorrow morning at approximately 7 a.m.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.