Letters to the Editor

Know who to call in case of an oil spill emergency | Letter to the Editor

After the destructive 2004 Dalco Pass oil spill, a handful of islanders attended spill training and beach cleaning for first responders. Inculcated in us was where and how to report a spill, as well as the urgency of initiating a competent cleanup effort by agencies with essential skills and equipment.

We all know to call 911 instantly to report a house on fire. The house on fire for our marine wildlife is a toxic spill of oil or other contaminants. Every islander should know what to do immediately upon discovering a suspicious substance on a beach or in our waters — call the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) at 1-800-OILS-911 (1-800-645-7911). In addition, report all spills of oil or hazardous materials to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

Evidently, lessons from the 2004 spill have faded. Diffusion of responsibility and delayed response time were huge impediments to effective containment of the Dalco Pass spill. It quickly spread into Colvos Pass. An oiled seal pup died. The marine lubricant mess on Maury Island in early March was not as dire as the 2004 spill, but it should jolt us out of complacency.

Once informed of the gunk on Maury, DOE executed a timely, laudable response. However, the convoluted notification of DOE regarding the incident was troubling. Lack of awareness about emergency numbers for reporting spills and mysterious beach goo poses a risk to the island. In a catastrophic spill, failure to report swiftly and directly would prove deadly. Minutes matter for wildlife in harm’s way. Let us avoid a repeat of the 2004 Dalco Pass debacle.


— Ann Stateler and Odin Lonning,  Hydrophone Project Managers


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