New skimmer preps Neah Bay for oil spills
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The Elastec/American Marine X150 grooved-disc skimmer has more storage capacity and is three to four times faster than other systems, state Department of Ecology officials said.
“We're tickled because this is cutting-edge technology,” Ecology spokesman Curt Hart said.
The state-of-the-art skimmer is part of the Washington State Maritime Cooperative's umbrella oil-spill readiness plan that Ecology approved last week.
The contingency plan covers more than 1,600 commercial vessels that enter the Puget Sound and Grays Harbor.
The Neah Bay area is of particular importance because of its position at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and its proximity to environmentally sensitive areas such as the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Olympic National Park and coastal tribes.
First oil skimmer
An oil-spill response tug has been stationed at Neah Bay since 1999 to help ships in distress, but “there haven't been any oil-skimming resources until this one was placed there,” Hart said in a Thursday phone interview.
NRC-Environmental Services, a private spill-response contractor, stationed the new oil-skimming system and oil-storage barge at Neah Bay on behalf of the Washington State Maritime Cooperative for its oil-spill readiness plan.
“Every year, billions of gallons of oil are transported into and across Puget Sound and Grays Harbor waters,” Ecology spill-preparedness Manager Linda Pilkey-Jarvis said in a statement.
“The WSMC plan helps safeguard our economy, cultural resources and environment by assuring us spillers can quickly mount an effective response. This is a substantial achievement because we have vessels from around the world that transit our waters every day.”
The Elastec/American Marine X150 is designed to be pulled by two lead vessels with a V-shaped containment boom.
The oil is funneled through a series of groved, rotating drums and stored in a mobile box that can be attached to the side of a barge.
“If you needed more storage, you could put [the box] on a larger barge,” Hart said.
“It's really cool.”
The system, which was field-tested at Neah Bay last month, met the requirements of the oil-spill readiness plan.
More oil faster
“You get more oil and oily water faster,” Hart said.
“That's really important because oil spills start spreading rapidly.”
The Elastec skimmer recovered 4,670 gallons of oil per minute at an 89.5 percent efficiency rate to take first place at the 2011 Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge in New Jersey.
Elastec's closest competitor recovered 2,712 gallons of oil at 83 percent efficiency. There were 350 entries and 10 finalists in the worldwide competition.
Pilkey-Jarvis said the Washington State Maritime Cooperative umbrella spill contingency plan is “good for business and our environment.
“Individual operators can share costs with other operators to be covered under a single large plan instead of maintaining their own plans,” she said.
“It's an approach that helps keep our ports competitive.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: March 10. 2013 1:49AM