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.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 57 of 102

55 Spring 2015 Proceedings medical attention. Fortuitously, due to recent chemical warfare training, a nurse at the hospital recognized the symptoms of sulfur mustard exposure, and blood tests con- frmed it. The vessel captain, however, remained unaware of this and off-loaded approximately 200 tons of his potentially sulfur- mustard-contaminated catch of clams. Before heading back to sea, the captain brought on a new crew member to replace the injured worker. But shortly after departure, a second crew member complained of symptoms indicative of sulfur mustard exposure, and the vessel again returned to New Bedford where emergency medical service personnel transported him to a local hospital. Upon debarking the second crew member, U.S. Coast Guard personnel, now aware of the potential vessel contamina- tion, ordered the captain to anchor offshore and placed the vessel into quarantine. Meanwhile, Massachusetts Depart- ment of Public Health representatives embargoed the clam catch, effectively placing the refrigerated clam sorting facil- ity under quarantine, as well. All Hands on Deck Since the federal on-scene coordinator response zone for New Bedford Harbor falls within the USCG jurisdiction, the captain of the port was designated the lead federal off- cial. If you remember recent history, you'll realize that this incident occurred during the height of the Deepwater Horizon response, while many USCG assets were deployed to the Gulf of Mexico, which complicated matters for the captain. As it would happen, this was also the captain's frst day at his new duty station. Nonetheless, he put together a unifed command (UC) that included the Atlantic Strike Team, the New Bedford Fire Department, the Massachusetts Depart- ment of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts National Guard civil support team, an EPA OSC, the U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal unit, the Port of Provi- dence marine strike force, and the New Bedford fre and police departments. While the Navy team removed the fuse, multi-agency entry teams confrmed mustard agent contamination and brought crew members ashore for decontamination and medical screening. EPA efforts included evaluating decontamina- tion and clearance options for the vessel, clams, and clam sorting facility, and options for waste disposal. The Response From the start, the unifed command faced a series of major challenges, such as: • What should be done with the quarantined fshing ves- sel, the embargoed catch, the clam cages, and the refrig- erated clam sorting facility? • Were there any more munitions within the catch that had not yet been located? • What clearance levels would determine when the responders could return the property and infrastruc- ture to service? During the frst days, responders consulted with their spe- cial teams and technical specialists, including the National Homeland Security Research Center and EPA's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Consequence Manage- ment and Advisory Division and Environmental Response Team to develop a decontamination strategy. WW-I-Era Chemical Weapons Mustard gas was used during World War I primarily as an incapacitating agent and is deadly to less than 1 percent of exposed individuals. After the war, as part of the armistice and Treaty of Versailles, chemical weapons (including sulfur mustard agent) were banned. Since countries were tasked to dispose of their stock- piles, many times barrels containing chemical weapons were dumped in the ocean. For more information, see the Chemical of the Quarter feature in this edition. Entry teams on the dock. Clam cleanup. Environmental Protection Agency photos by OSC Elise Jakabhazy.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Proceedings Of The Marine - SPR 2015