NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

An inside look at the science of cleaning up and fixing the mess of marine pollution

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration Responds to Hurricane Isaac in the Gulf

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Office of Response and Restoration staff continues to support the U.S. Coast Guard’s assessment and response efforts following the landfall of Hurricane Isaac last week. Our office has two Scientific Support Coordinators and two information management specialists on scene in Louisiana.

Flooding on the Mississippi River, just west of New Orleans, La., in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

Flooding on the Mississippi River, just west of New Orleans, La., in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. (NOAA)

Additional support is being provided remotely for ERMA® (an online mapping tool for visualizing key environmental response data) and for response management. The Gulf of Mexico Regional ERMA site is being used as the U.S. Coast Guard Common Operational Picture and is providing operations, environmental, and situation unit support for the federal response efforts.

Our information management and ERMA team members are coordinating with the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and state and local partners to provide real-time situational awareness for local and remote agency personnel. The primary focus is on oil and chemical pollution from sunken vessels, facility releases, toppled tanks and rail cars, and pipeline and rig spills. Pollution is to be expected following major storms like Isaac when flood waters carry all sorts of household and industrial debris.

So far, Coast Guard and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality assessment teams have investigated about 90 separate reports of pollution throughout the impacted areas. Facility owners are taking steps to clean up the majority of these incidents. Six sites require further assessment, and environmental response crews are taking steps to clean up or contain any oil releases.

The OR&R team is also tracking marine debris and evaluating the effect of the passing hurricane on shorelines affected by the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique teams are beginning operations along the Gulf Coast looking for new spills but also focusing on tarballs and oily residue discovered in the area oiled by the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill in 2010. Samples of tarballs are being collected and will be analyzed to determine the source.

Author: doughelton

Doug Helton is the Regional Operations Supervisor for the West Coast, Alaska, Hawaii, and Great Lakes and also serves as the Incident Operations Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Emergency Response Division. The Division provides scientific and technical support to the Coast Guard during oil and chemical spill responses. The Division is based in Seattle, WA, but manages NOAA response efforts nationally.

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