Our Videos

January 3, 08

NEWS / U.S. Agency, Coast Guard Help South Korea with Oil Spill Cleanup


Emergency response to nation’s worst spill gives way to long-term cleanup

By Cheryl Pellerin
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington -- A team of U.S. specialists has lent its expertise to the Republic of Korea after a crane barge collided with the motor tanker Hebei Spirit, releasing nearly 11.4 million liters of crude oil into the Yellow Sea 10 kilometers off the nation’s west coast.

The spill happened December 7, 2007, but the cleanup effort, which could take a year or more, is just beginning.

The largest oil spill in the East Asian country’s history has affected more than 160 kilometers of beaches, rocky shoreline and aquaculture sites bordering Taean County and points north, 150 kilometers southwest of Seoul.

The Korean Coast Guard coordinated the initial cleanup -- helped by tens of thousands of citizen volunteers who took up shovels to remove thick surface oil from beaches -- and accepted an offer of help with the spill from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT

A four-member U.S. technical assistance team arrived in Seoul December 13, 2007. It included Joseph Loring, Mark Gregory and Jonathan Grimes of the USCG Pacific Strike Team in California, and Edwin Levine, scientific support coordinator from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Office of Response and Restoration in New York.

“In heavy seas, a tow rope broke between a tug and a barge it was pulling and the barge drifted into an oil tanker that was anchored,” Levine told USINFO. “It happened during a storm, so there was nothing [the Korean Coast Guard] could do to stop the oil during the first days of the release.”

A swarm of media greeted the U.S. team outside Seoul Kimpo International Airport, Levine said, possibly seeking a judgment about the Korean Coast Guard’s technical performance in the first days of the oil spill response. But, he added, the agency did not do anything wrong.

“They were in a bad situation; there was no magic bullet. There were things we would have done slightly differently, but nothing radically different,” Levine said. “The amazing thing was the outpouring of public support. The first weekend we were there, they had 40,000 volunteers. By the time we left, more than 350,000 people had come down to help.”

In a 27-page report by the U.S. technical assistance team to the Korean Coast Guard, “Considerations for Response to the MT Hebei Spirit Oil Spill,” the authors praised initial cleanup efforts.

“The people of Korea, under the management of [the Korean Coast Guard], were performing an astonishing feat removing the oil that had contaminated their shores,” they wrote, adding that, in their observations, the country’s efforts “far exceeded the team’s initial expectations, which were based upon news reports.”

U.S. ASSISTANCE

The Korean Coast Guard briefed the U.S. team, which afterward visited oiled beaches, shorelines and aquaculture sites, then surveyed the affected zone from the air.

The U.S. team’s resulting report covered 17 areas for consideration by the Korean Coast Guard and addressed cleanup options on water and on shore, aquaculture, trajectory modeling of the oil spill’s path, waste stream management, oiled vegetation, submerged and buried oil, oiled wildlife rehabilitation, health and safety guidance, seafood safety and environmental assessment and restoration.

Other considerations included cleanup endpoints -- deciding “how clean is clean,” Levine said, “and when to stop the cleanup” -- and moving from an emergency response to long-term project management in dealing with the oil spill and environmental restoration.

“They’re going to be cleaning this up for a year, easily,” Levine said. “One of the things we coached them on is to start preparing to look at this not as an emergency but as a long-term project.”

Levine -- who since 1987 has responded to dozens of incidents, including the largest U.S. oil spill, involving the Exxon Valdez oil tanker, which released 41.6 million liters of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989 -- also compiled a list of technical resources for the Korean Coast Guard and others involved in the cleanup.

USCG and NOAA have proposed future meetings or training sessions with the Korean Coast Guard on spill-response topics, to be hosted by the USCG Pacific Strike Team in California.

More information about the science of oil and chemical spills is available on the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

 




Testimonials

AnnaMaria Realbuto
Thank you for all your assistance and efficiency...
Read More »
Kateryna Melnychenko
Thanks a lot Anton!...
Read More »
Rani Payne
Thank you so much! I’m sure I will be in touch again with something else that will need to be apost...
Read More »
Serge Bauer Law
Thank you again for your help with this case!...
Read More »



FAQ

How can I protect my invention, product or idea?
Read More »
Airport code list (Canada)
Read More »
What if my employer goes out of business or in bankruptcy?
Read More »
What are the advantages and disadvantages to outsourcing?
Read More »






News

June 18, 24
Indiana County stops issuing birth and death certificates after officer suspension
Read More »
June 12, 24
Delays in Death Certificate Processing Compound Family's Grief and Financial Strain
Read More »
June 6, 24
Birth Certificate Becomes Key Issue in Missouri Discrimination Case
Read More »
May 31, 24
Bangladesh approves proposal to join Apostille Convention
Read More »