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Spill drill highlights personnel problems

Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2000

NIKISKI (AP) -- The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation found problems with the way Tesoro and Cook Inlet Spill Prevention Response Inc. handled an unannounced oil spill drill.

The drill scenario March 8 was to gauge the response to a tanker in Cook Inlet leaking crude oil.

John Kotula, of DEC's Marine Vessel Section in Valdez, said there were some problems with responders not treating the drill seriously.

''In the past there were industry training drills, and they went into this drill with that attitude,'' Kotula said. ''But when the state calls a drill, it's to test response and procedures. Some responders missed that and did not know there was a difference between an industry drill and a DEC drill.''

The report said response crews setting up air monitoring equipment did not seem to have been briefed on what was expected of them during real-time recovery exercises. Responders did not understand the importance of setting up personnel decontamination procedures during a drill. The report also said that during the deployment of containment equipment, several things went wrong.

''I think everyone learned a lot,'' said Tesoro spokesperson Shawn Brown in Nikiski. ''As in every drill, you can do some tweaking and things can be improved on.''

Another personnel problem occurred when employees were pressed into jobs for which they were not trained, the report said.

Equipment shortfalls also were highlighted in the DEC's report.

One problem was the lack of storage capacity for skimmed oil on the vessel Monarch.

''Evaluators did not feel the 200 (barrel) storage tank on the OSV Monarch was sufficient to keep their skimming system operating on a full-time basis,'' the report said.

The report said that with an oil recovery rate of 159 barrels of oil per hour, the skimmer would have to be taken out of service so often to empty the tanks as to not allow for continuous skimming operation.

''They had storage available, and I think they should have activated more,'' Kotula said. ''It goes back to the difference between an industry drill and a department drill.''

There also was a problem with the operation of a skimmer, because all necessary equipment was not aboard the vessel Heritage Service needed to operate it. A substitute skimmer was deployed instead.

Brown said CISPRI was able to deploy its equipment on-scene and get contract boats from Homer to respond quickly as well.

''CISPRI and Tesoro were very receptive to hear everything we had to say,'' Kotula said.

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