Proceedings Of The Marine

SPR 2015

Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.

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Page 17 of 102

15 Spring 2015 Proceedings The First USCG Strike Teams By 1973, the USCG established three strike teams: • the Atlantic Strike Team, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina; • the Gulf Strike Team, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi; • the Pacific Strike Team, at Hamilton Air Force Base, Novato, California. The three strike teams provided communications sup- port, advice, and expertise in ship salvage, diving, and hazardous substance removal techniques. In the mid 1970s, the National Oceanic and Atmo- spheric Administration and the EPA stood up addi- tional special forces, known as scientific support coordinators, and the USCG and EPA each estab- lished public affairs teams. Each team was available for USCG or EPA on-scene commanders to call upon in need under the authority of the National Oil and Hazardous Pollution Contingency Plan. The First Tests Then in December 1976, the vessel Argo Merchant ran aground off Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, spilling 7.5 million gallons of oil. Although the spill saw a massive response under the NCP, the size of the spill, combined with the harsh weather conditions, exceeded the technological oil recovery capabilities of the time. 5 As a result, in March 1977, President Carter recommended specifc measures to better control maritime oil pollution, including improved response times and enhanced federal ability to respond to oil pollution emergencies. He also directed the USCG and the EPA to improve their ability to contain and minimize the damaging effects of oil spills. The specifc goal was to develop the ability to respond within six hours to a spill of 100,000 tons. In response, the USCG conducted a series of deployment requirement studies, which led to the prescribed six-hour response standard that today's strike teams still provide. In addition, throughout the 1970s, the strike teams expanded their equipment inventory. For example, personnel devel- oped an air-deliverable anti-pollution transfer system and an open water oil containment system, designed specif- cally for high seas and strong wind conditions; a fast surface delivery sled for pollution response equipment; and added skimming capability to current methods, which enabled containment and recovery operations to occur simultane- ously. Then, on June 3, 1979, another oil disaster struck, as a blow- out occurred at a well in the Gulf of Mexico. For more than a month, between 10,000 and 30,000 barrels of oil per day were discharged. Although Mexican authorities, the U.S. Coast Guard, and cleanup companies from around the world responded, a huge slick moved toward Texas and ultimately affected its coastline by the end of the summer. 6 Chemical Releases of the 1980s��� The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act In response to growing public awareness regarding hazard- ous waste sites across the country, such as Love Canal in New York, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environ- mental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CER- CLA) on Dec. 11, 1980, to help seal the response gap that previously only provided federal mandates and funding to respond to oil and some hazardous material on navigable waters. CERCLA also established a new fund (the Super- fund) specifcally to fnance hazardous materials cleanup efforts. As the United States shifted to a more proactive approach, on Dec. 3, 1984, a chemical release from a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, killed more than 2,000 people. 7 Subsequently, the following year, back in the United States, a release of aldicarbi oxime occurred at a facility in Institute, West Vir- ginia. 8 These incidents heightened the need for emergency planning for major accidental chemical releases. Congress responded, and, on Oct. 17, 1986, passed the Super- fund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986, which extensively revised existing CERCLA and mandated A Coast Guard helicopter prepares to hoist people off the tanker SS Argo Merchant, which ran aground off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts, December 1976. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's offce.

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