AQUASCO, MD (May 16, 2000) --The Unified Command for the Swanson Creek Marsh Oil Spill announced today that the initial emergency cleanup of the spill near Pepco’s Chalk Point Generating Station in southern Maryland is complete and efforts are now focused on long-term restoration. The Patuxent River is open to recreation, boating, fishing, crabbing and shell fishing activities. Several hundred workers are continuing to clean up and restore oil-damaged properties and other affected areas along the Patuxent River.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) On-Scene Coordinator Colby Stanton, who has been in charge of directing phase one cleanup, said, "This effort is similar to putting out a house fire. The fire is out now, but work to repair the structure continues. The restoration efforts, which are more like rebuilding the damaged property after a fire, will last even longer." The EPA will continue to be in charge during the phase two cleanup of the project. The new On-Scene Coordinator, Debbie Carlson, is expected to remain on-site on a full time basis for at least six more weeks according to EPA officials.
In signaling the end of the emergency, the Unified Command, which includes the U.S. EPA, the Maryland Department of the Environment and Pepco, ensures that all normal permitting processes and legal protections of the environment are applied to further actions in response to the spill. The long-term cleanup effort will be carefully monitored by state and federal agencies to ensure that response activities do not cause greater damage than the oil itself. Environmental assessment teams will determine what methods are most appropriate for each area. In some environmentally sensitive areas, manual recovery methods, such as excavation, may be more damaging to the environment than allowing nature to remove the oil through natural processes such as evaporation and bioremediation. Cleanup crews will work to aid these natural processes.
"We are extremely pleased that the cleanup has reached this point and that the river is on its way to recovery," said Billy Moore, Pepco’s Manager of Natural Resources Management. "While tremendous progress has been made, we want to assure our neighbors in southern Maryland that Pepco will continue to commit people and resources to the long-term cleanup of areas affected by this spill."
Alan Williams, Program Manager of Field Operations for the Maryland Department of the Environment said, "We are pleased with the extensive, collaborative effort to return the waters of the Patuxent River to their natural state of beauty, however we still have a lot more to do."
In another sign of progress, the Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary yesterday released 32 waterfowl back into the environment. The waterfowl were oiled after the spill and have since been rehabilitated.
"The Patuxent River area has been sufficiently cleaned to safely release animals, and the birds who were released today are doing well. They appear very happy to be back home," said Dianne Pearce of the Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary.
To date, more than 45,000 gallons of oil and more than 3 million pounds of solid waste and other oil-soaked materials have been collected.
On April 7, an oil leak occurred in an underground pipeline near Pepco’s Chalk Point Generating Station. That night, Pepco placed booms in the water that contained the oil in Swanson Creek, where the leak occurred. On the night of April 8, a storm with winds up to 50 MPH blew oil over the containment booms into the river. The cause of the leak remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Statements Below are Advisories
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and local health departments received the results of laboratory analyses of fish, crab and shellfish samples taken from the Patuxent River following the spill. Samples from the affected area and surrounding waters were analyzed for substances that might indicate exposure to petroleum. Test results were similar to fish from other areas of the Chesapeake Bay that have not been affected by the oil spill. Therefore, we are confident that fish, crabs and shellfish harvested from the Patuxent River are safe to eat. It should be noted that common sense and individual judgment should always be exercised in determining whether, crabs, fish or any other food source is safe to eat.
The Patuxent River is open to normal recreational, fishing, crabbing and shell fishing vessel traffic. While some small areas remain boomed, Swanson Creek is the only creek that remains entirely boomed off. A Marine Information Broadcast (MIB) is in effect. The MIB is a U.S. Coast Guard-issued radio broadcast that announces the transit conditions of the river. Commercial and recreational craft are not to cross the remaining boomed areas. In addition, vessels are asked to keep the wake down where booms or cleanup crews are present. Inquiries from commercial vessels requiring transit into boomed areas can be directed to Coast Guard Activities Baltimore Port Safety and Security at (410) 576-2693. Recreational users should contact the Maryland Natural Resources Police at (301) 888-1601.