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When And How To Use Oil Spill Containment Booms

Containment booms, such as the one pictured here, are used during a spill to contain the spilled oil so skimmers, vacuums, or other collection methods can be used. Oil spill containment booms help to concentrate oil in thicker surface layers, making recovery easier, and to reduce the possibility of polluting shorelines and other resources.

Booms come in many shapes and sizes, with various levels of effectiveness in different types of water conditions. Successive rows of boom are typically employed to capture oil which may escape the first set of booms.

Boom Deployment For Oil Spill Response Trainees

Oil spill response trainees are shown techniques of containment boom deployment. The EPA's five-day training course for conducting proper response measures in cases of inland oil spills is designed for spill response personnel from the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, and state agencies, covering federal laws and policies related to oil spills, basic technical issues, oil spill prevention, cleanup and treatment technologies, roles of agencies responding to inland oil spills, and monitoring requirements. Attendees improve their knowledge of these topics through a variety of methods, including lectures, problem sessions, and hands-on exercises.

Response personnel attend training sessions conducted by EPA and the Coast guard to enhance their practical knowledge of response techniques and equipment. Here, personnel are participating in a hands-on lesson in deploying a boom around an oil tanker.

Successfully Using Containment Booms

One of the first steps in the event of an oil spill to inland waters is to contain the spilled oil. This photo (right) shows the use of a oil containment boom to corral the oil for recovery and disposal. The use of containment booms also help to reduce the potential for the oil to spread to adjoining shorelines or affect fish and wildlife.

Spills In Sensitive Habitats

Oil spill responders are working on oil spilled into marshlands, one of the most sensitive habitats. Marshes have little water flow and serve important ecological roles as nurseries to shellfish and fish, a food source for many organisms, and a home for fish, birds, and mammals. These characteristics also make responding to an oil spill in a marsh even more difficult. Responders must take care not to further disturb the sensitive habitats, while facing challenges of transporting personnel and equipment into hard-to-reach locations to conduct response activities.

Oil Containment Booms Used At Sugar Run Creek in Reston, Virginia

In March 1995, an underground oil pipeline located in Reston, Virginia ruptured. The high-pressure pipeline, released over 400,000 gallons of oil to the environment before it could be shut down. One of the largest inland oil spills in recent history, the oil affected nine miles of the nearby Sugarland Run Creek and entered the Potomac River. In this photo, response personnel deploy a containment boom into Sugarland Run Creek to contain the spilled oil and to prevent the oil from contaminating areas downriver, including numerous public drinking water intakes.

The inset photo shows response personnel using vacuum pumps and hoses to remove oil from Sugarland Run Creek after deploying oil containment boom to contain the oil. In all, response personnel recovered over 90 percent of the spilled oil.

oil spill containment boom

containment boom

Photograph by Ruth A. Lyngard

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