Emergency crews, researchers prepare for potential oil spills

Crews from Fairhaven and Acushnet trained for oil spill response Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. (WJAR)

Crews from Fairhaven and Acushnet trained for oil spill response Thursday.

"We do a lot of oil spills in the harbor," Fairhaven Fire Chief Timothy Francis said.

Francis was the incident commander during the Bouchard oil spill response in 2003.

"This whole area was covered with oil. It was over 100,000 gallons of oil that got spilled out. We were here for 41 days," he said.

Fairhaven Fire-EMS, the Harbormaster, Fairhaven EMA, Acushnet Fire, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Coast Guard and NUKA Research participated in the training at Hoppy's Landing.

The agencies tested three pre-deployment strategies. A floating barrier, called a boom, contains the spill and other supplies can absorb them.

"We put peat moss in the water, kind of like a surrogate, which mimics how oil would react," Marine Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program Section Chief Julie Hutcheson said.

Oil can harm the environment and wildlife.

More than 70 oil sheens were reported in the water between New Bedford and Fairhaven since 2016, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

"Anybody who is going to work in this area or work in the waterfront area, has to learn this stuff," Francis said. "We deal with fishing vessels all the time, we deal with emergencies on fishing vessels, we deal with oil spills on a regular basis in the harbor."

Oil sheens or spills should be reported immediately to the Coast Guard National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

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