Environmental Protection Agency Operated Vessel Spills 1,400 Gallons of Diesel at NOAA Operating Base

Fractured stern tube running through center fuel tank is the culprit, says Coast Guard PAO

Under the broad category of "It could happen to anybody," an EPA-operated research vessel only recently obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) spilled an estimated 1,400 gallons of diesel fuel into the water. The Coast Guard responded to the incident, which occurred on Monday, near downtown Norfolk. According to a Coast Guard spokesman, the moored research vessel Lake Explorer II suffered a fractured stern tube at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Marine Operation Base. The tube, which runs through the vessel's center fuel tank, then allowed the diesel to escape.

According to a Coast Guard news release, the captain of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 90-foot vessel notified the National Response Center and Coast Guard watchstanders between 6-7 a.m. to tell them about the vessel's discharge. The Coast Guard deployed two response boat crews from Station Portsmouth, Va., a helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., and Coast Guard investigators. The Norfolk Fire Department, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and an oil spill response organization hired by the EPA are also responding to the spill.

Containment boom and absorbent pads were deployed and ship personnel secured the spill's source. Investigators estimate the spill is 1,400 gallons. Rainbow sheens were seen along the Elizabeth River between the former Rude and the USS Wisconsin and down to Scotts Creek, which is approximately two miles. The Coast Guard also said today that all recoverable oil had been collected, but cleanup of small pockets and soiled shoreside areas were still being attended to.

Until recently, the vessel was owned by NOAA and was named somewhat appropriately, Rude . The new name of the vessel was not yet painted on the vessel. There's no word as to whether the EPA intends to fine itself for the mishap. – MarEx

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