Members from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), and Navy Supervisor of Salvage (SUPSALV) participated in an ice-based pollution response exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, Alaska, Jan. 30 through Feb. 2.
SUPSALV’s contractor, Global PCCI (GPC), simulated an oil spill on Otter Lake and demonstrated various containment and recovery methods suitable for Arctic conditions. One such method was use of a rope mop skimmer, which involved digging a trench, without penetrating through the layer of ice, and drilling holes in the trench down into the water. This method allows for oil to float up through the holes and become contained in the trench. There the oil is collected by a rope mop skimmer, which uses oil-attracting fibers to pick up the oil and transfer it to a holding tank.
“This is an exceptional opportunity for our partners to come together to exchange knowledge, practice recovery techniques, and test equipment before an actual incident,” said Lt. Andrew Ratti, Sector Anchorage, Incident Management Division. “We’re learning the practical application of tactics and techniques, but we’re also networking to ensure better communication when we need to coordinate efforts at an actual incident.”
Coast Guard members from Anchorage, Juneau and the Great Lakes Oil Spill Center of Expertise (GLCOE) in Sault St. Marie, Michigan, gained hands-on experience building containment berms, using ice augers, and setting up fast erect tanks. Participants also practiced a diversionary technique using plywood to divert oil trapped beneath ice to a designated location for cleanup.
“Oil spill exercises provide a safe, collaborative environment where members of the response community can work together and exchange knowledge, ideas and concerns,” said Anna Carey, ADEC State On-Scene Coordinator. “Exercises are especially important in Alaska where weather conditions, remote locations and availability of response equipment and personnel make oil response especially challenging.”