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MCAS Beaufort rehearses oil spill decontamination procedures

By Lance Cpl. Jonah Lovy | Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort | November 6, 2015


Marines and civilians with the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort fuels sections and the Natural Resources Environmental Affairs Office completed a week-long Facility Response Team course increasing proficiency in nautical spill response procedures aboard the air station Nov. 2-6.

The course instructed Marines on how to evaluate environmental and nautical conditions and tactics in order to quickly respond to an oil spill in the waterways leading to the air station.      

“It’s a five-day class to requalify and qualify as Facility Response Team responders,” said Billy Drawdy, the natural resources and environmental affairs officer. “They gain the basic knowledge of how to respond to a spill properly, and the class provides them with information and training that is specific to Beaufort.”

The training culminated with a simulated oil spill aboard the air station Nov. 4. The exercise required multiple boats and two different teams; the facility response team and the spill management team.  

“We are simulating a worst case scenario fuel release from the fuel barge,” said Corey Jackson, the documentation unit leader for the spill management team. “What we’re doing is activating the facility response team. Their responsibility is to respond to the oil spill as quickly as possible.”

The spill is simulated by placing yellow blocks that float on the water. They boat crews locate the blocks on the water and conduct shoreline protection by using a containment tool called a boom. The boom is towed behind the boats and acts as a large net, trapping the oil.

            “The primary configuration is the U-shape,” said Jackson. “This formation captures the oil by using the tide to our advantage. The oil floats right into our U-shaped trap and is held there. Then our skimmer boat comes and pulls the oil off of the water.”

The skimmer, a boat equipped with an oil recovery system, helps filter oil contamination in the water and is one of many assets in the MCAS Beaufort’s arsenal for protecting the waterways.
“Once the oil is collected and the skimmer is back on shore, pump trucks empty the tank and dispose of the oil,” said Jackson.

What happens simultaneously is the activation of the spill management team. Their job is to collect all the data to find out what actually occurred to cause the spill.

“The spill management team puts together a response plan to minimize environmental impact and clean our waters as efficiently as possible,” said Jackson.

According to the air station’s fuel division the primary method of fuel delivery is via barge over the waterways, making the training not only essential but proactive for any emergency situation on base.

“The base is a unique setting, it handles a lot of fuel surrounded by a pristine environment so whenever there’s a threat, a facility response team is trained up and ready to go,” said Drawdy. “You learn to take responsibility for spills that may occur at your facility and do what you can for immediate and effective cleanup.”

“Part of Marine Corps mission is to not leave a big footprint,” said Drawdy. “You need to have some people trained up and ready to respond. This area is pristine and needs to be protected.”