Southern Maryland's Oil Spill Cleanup Underway : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Oil Spill Cleanup Underway By Todd Shields Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, April 10, 2000; 1:05 PM

Scores of workers in bright-yellow jumpsuits launched a concerted assault today on an oil slick loosed upon Southern Maryland's Patuxent River by a faulty Pepco pipeline and wind-driven waves.

More than 100 workers used floating booms and spongy cloths to contain oil that fouled nearly three miles of Calvert County shoreline, about 30 miles southeast of the District. That many more workers were assigned Monday to the Swanson Creek area around the Chalk Point power plant in southern Prince George's County.

Pepco officials said winds had abated Monday morning and they had been able to reposition floating booms in Swanson Creek to prevent any more oil from entering the river.

Cleanup leaders said they expected the job would take several days. The National Transportation Safety Board was taking the lead role in the cleanup because it has investigatory responsibility for pipeline accidents. Other agencies involved included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as state and county offices.

The marsh area around the Chalk Point plant is a natural habitat for muskrat and fish. Officials said about a dozen muskrat had died so far.

The oil spill began Friday night when about 110,000 gallons of fuel oil leaked from a ruptured pipeline that feeds Pepco's Chalk Point plant. Pepco officials said they contained the spill in marshy land near the plant until Saturday, when storm-whipped waves overpowered booms and sent the oil into the Patuxent.

On Sunday about two dozen workers fought brisk breezes and choppy water as they tried to contain the spill. Today five times that number were at work.

A Coast Guard helicopter hovered overhead, its crew assessing the size of the spill. A barge that can skim oil worked a few dozen yards off shore on beaches near the low-slung Patuxent River Bridge that crosses the river at Benedict.

Workers used absorbent mats to soak up oil left on beaches by the receding tide. Others waded into the Patuxent to lay out long sausage-like rolls of linked absorbent material. Vacuum trucks stood by ready to suck up the water and oil mixture.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 10, 2000

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