May 27, 2010

Maine oil booms on the way to help Gulf spill

At Rep. Chellie Pingree’s prodding, the company responsible for the spill arranges to pick up the gear.

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

More than two miles of oil spill containment boom will be on its way from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico today, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

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Chris Estes, a forklift operator for the Department of Environmental Protection, loads containment boom from a Portland warehouse onto a waiting tractor-trailer to be delivered to Louisiana.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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The DEP had prepared 13,900 feet of boom at the request of officials who are directing the cleanup of the BP oil spill off Louisiana. But the equipment remained in warehouses in Portland and Bangor.

On Wednesday, after U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree intervened, a cleanup contractor working for BP arranged to pick up the boom this morning.

“I appreciate the quick response from (Marine Spill Response Corp.) in putting this critical equipment to work right away,” Pingree said in a prepared statement Tuesday night.

Containment boom is made of lightweight material that floats on the ocean and blocks oil from escaping a spill zone or entering a protected area such as a sensitive estuary or marsh. Some booms also absorb oil, although the boom that is going from Maine to the Gulf is designed only for containment.

The governor of Louisiana said Monday that more boom, as well as other cleanup equipment, is desperately needed to protect marshes and coastline from the spilled oil.

Told on Tuesday about the boom in Maine warehouses, Pingree contacted the Marine Spill Response Corp., a nonprofit set up by the oil industry in response to the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.

The organization owns the Maine Responder, a Portland-based spill cleanup vessel that is helping to recover oil from the Gulf of Mexico.
BP signed an agreement Wednesday to replace Maine’s containment boom within two years with specific types of boom requested by the DEP.

Even with the deployment of more than two miles of boom to the Gulf, the DEP still has 30,000 feet of containment boom available to respond to any spills in Maine, said Donna Gormley, a spokeswoman for the DEP.

The DEP is still waiting for a response to its offer to send other equipment, as well as personnel, to help fight the spill.

The available resources include oil skimmers, a 30-foot oil spill response boat, two work boats on trailers, pumps and hoses, and eight to 10 trained responders who could help recover oil or assess shoreline damage.

Gov. Baldacci called Louisiana’s governor on April 30 to offer the assistance, but has not yet received a request to send the resources, said Joy Leach, a spokeswoman for Baldacci.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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