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Press Release

Swanson Creek Oil Spill

Joint Information Center
(301) 579-2023

April 19, 2000

WELLS DRILLED IN MARSH TO AID PATUXENT RIVER OIL RECOVERY AND CLEAN-UP OPERATION; SOME EAST BANK CREEKS REOPENED TO BOAT TRAFFIC

Six wells were drilled into the Swanson Creek marsh Wednesday to aid in oil recovery efforts as shoreline clean up continued along the Patuxent River and its creeks in Southern Maryland under direction of the Unified Command organization. No free floating oil was observed on the river for the fourth consecutive day, prompting the withdrawal of protective containment booms at the mouth of several creeks on the river's east bank. Wildlife organizations reported success in cleaning oil from two ospreys and returning them to their nest.

The Unified Command said the wells drilled in the Swanson Creek marsh near Pepco's Chalk Point Generating Station will help determine how deep oil may have penetrated and aid in draining oil from the marsh. The marsh is the site of the April 7 oil pipeline leak from where the NTSB removed a 52-inch section of 12-inch diameter pipe buried 3.6 feet under the marsh. The NTSB reported: "At that point, the pipeline made a bend in which a vertical crack that is five inches long and ½ inch wide was found. A bulge in the pipe at the same location extends about one inch above the top plane of the pipe. This type of bend is commonly referred to as a wrinkle bend in the pipeline industry. The pipe was taken to the NTSB laboratory for further examination."

More than 700 people are recovering oil and cleaning shoreline at various sites. The Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland Department of the Environment, Coast Guard, Pepco and its contractors are providing manpower as well as technical expertise. Other experts working to return the water and affected shoreline areas to clean, safe and useable standards include NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

With conditions improved in the river, all creeks on the east bank from Sheridan Point south to Hawk's Nest near the mouth of the Patuxent have been reopened to marine traffic. The protective oil containment booms were withdrawn from the creek entrances, but remain in the water near shore so they can be redeployed if needed. More than 50,000 feet of boom remain in the affected areas of the Patuxent River and its tributaries, mostly on the west bank.

The Unified Command morning overflight continued to report no visible, recognizable oil floating in the Patuxent, but continued to observe oil sheening in a few areas, much of which will evaporate on a sunny day.

The Unified Command said that with warmer weather forecast this week, oil that may have congealed into tar balls could surface and leave a noticeable odor of petroleum. Additional absorbent booms, containment booms and boats will be positioned to recover any oil.

More than 28,000 gallons of oil had been recovered and disposed off site as of 8 a.m. today. Additionally, an undetermined amount of oil was in 1.1 million pounds of absorbent material-booms, blankets, netting and protective clothing-that have been trucked off site for disposal. Over 6,000 feet of oiled absorbent boom alone have been retrieved from the water.

Oil recovery operations intensified in Swanson Creek and marsh where oil originally leaked from a broken pipeline. Clean-up operations also focused in creeks on the west bank of the Patuxent and include Indian, Trent Hall, Persimmon, Cremona, Cat, Roslin and Cole creeks. On the east bank, cleanup continues at God's Grace Point, Hallowing Point and Caney Creek.

Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc. reported that a nesting pair of oiled osprey was captured and taken to the Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary in Bowie, Md., where they were washed, dried and returned to the capture site in eight hours and released. The female returned to the nest while the male circled and landed in a nearby tree to observe the nest. Of three eggs in the nest, two were unoiled. The third was oiled and pulled from the nest and cleaned while the parents were at the Bowie facility.

STATEMENTS BELOW ARE ADVISORIES

  1. The Maryland Department of the Environment has stated that in the area of the Patuxent River and tributaries where the presence of petroleum products has been observed, fish and crabs should not be harvested commercially or recreationally. These areas may be identified by a surface sheen, oil on the beach, or the smell of petroleum.
  2. At this time, residents should not use beaches and shorelines impacted by the spill for recreational purposes. Pets and livestock should not be allowed access to areas contaminated by the spill. If contact should occur, oil can be removed with mild detergent.
  3. Boaters are prohibited from jumping boom. Violators are subject to a $25,000 fine.
  4. Boating traffic is restricted in safety zones, which include all boomed creeks.

Websites where you can find more spill-related information:

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Superfund |EPA Home | EPA Superfund Homepage


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