Coalition responds to oil spill in Cape Cod Canal

Early in the morning of March 21, a vessel heading south from Cape Cod Canal ran aground near Stony Point Dike, causing its drive gear to break off and sink to the bottom of Buzzards Bay. The collision caused up to 350 gallons of gear oil to spill into the Bay.

The spill response included over a dozen local, state, and federal agencies and the Buzzards Bay Coalition. By noon that day, oil booms were protecting Wareham and Bourne’s most sensitive natural areas, including shellfish beds and coastal wetlands. By 3pm, Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams, including Coalition staff, were walking beaches and shorelines to determine the extent of the spill and find out if any oil could be recovered. At 5pm, the tug’s disabled drive gear was recovered from the water.

coast guard on beach in wareham

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard search for signs of oil after a spill in Cape Cod Canal.

There were reports of an oily sheen from the southern end of Stony Point Dike through Cape Cod Canal, and Coalition staff found a light trace of oil on a few beaches. By the next morning, most evidence of the spill was gone and the initial incident response had concluded.

The rapid, aggressive response helped minimize the impact of this small spill. It is this type of response that the Coalition helped communities prepare for when we guided the creation of Geographic Response Plans for oil spills in Buzzards Bay in the wake of the Bouchard 120 spill nearly 10 years ago.

At the same time, this incident shows the challenges of navigating any vessel through Buzzards Bay and underscores the need for strict protections from large-scale oil spills. When it comes to oil in Buzzards Bay, prevention is better than the greatest response.

The Coalition commends Captain Verne Gifford and Commander Jeannot Smith of the U.S. Coast Guard for guiding a strong response to this incident. We would also like to thank the many state agencies involved, as well as the towns of Wareham, Bourne, Marion, and Falmouth, for their efforts. We were proud to work with these agencies to make sure Buzzards Bay received the response it deserves.

Category: On the Bay

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