Back

FWS National Contingency Plan

PROCEDURES FOR REMOVAL & RESPONSE
(See also Appendices D, L and N)

Following notification, the initial removal and response efforts will be based on the information provided through the notification process, data available from the appropriate contingency plans, and the on-scene evaluation.

Identification of Resources at Risk

The Service will be requested by the FOSC and Department of the Interior, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance’s Regional Environmental Officer (REO) to rapidly determine if there are Service trust resources at risk of contamination from the spill, including, as applicable, fish, migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, marine mammals, sensitive environments, refuge lands, etc. The Spill Response Coordinator will request the most current information available from field unit managers and field biologists to best evaluate the resources at risk and convey this information to the FOSC. This assessment combined with the assessments of other agencies will provide the initial response guidance for the On-Scene Coordinators. The Service’s continued participation in the response efforts would be based on both the potential and actual types and quantities of injury affecting Service trust resources.

Implementation of Response Actions

Federal law requires that the Responsible Party (RP) or spiller respond to and clean up the spilled material. Only if the RP cannot be identified, fails to respond, or does an inadequate job of cleanup will the Federal or State Government take over or supplement the response (not applicable when a Federal agency is the RP). The On-Scene Coordinators (OSC), have the authority to ensure that response and cleanup operations are conducted expediently and efficiently. The natural resource trust agencies, i.e. Department of Interior, Department of Commerce, and State agencies, oversee the protection of trust natural resources during response and cleanup activities and advise the RP and the OSCs.

The NCP outlines the defense, recovery, and disposal actions that are likely to occur during spill response efforts. Service spill responders must be knowledgeable of available removal/response tactics, their purpose and capabilities, and their relationship to the protection of trust resources and sensitive environments. Immediate response actions are based on the local Area Contingency Plan and the recommendations contained therein.

Countermeasures: Containment, Protection, Cleanup, and Disposal
(summarized from the NCP):

• Defensive actions begin as soon as possible to prevent, minimize, or mitigate threat(s) to the public health or welfare of the environment.

• As appropriate, actions are taken to recover the oil or mitigate its effects. All methods, mechanical and non-mechanical, are selected and implemented in a manner consistent with the protection of public and environmental health and welfare.

• Oil and contaminated materials recovered during cleanup operations are disposed of in accordance with the RCP, ACP, and any applicable laws, regulations, or other requirements.

Protection of fish and wildlife and sensitive environments and the capture and treatment and/or relocation of fish and wildlife during a discharge of oil are emergency activities and CONSIDERED PART OF THE REMOVAL PROCESS. When the Service responds to a discharge of oil, its primary responsibility is to protect fish and wildlife and their habitats from injury. Oil spill response countermeasures employed to protect trust resources can be grouped into three basic categories:

1. Primary Response – Keep the oil away from the resource.

2. Secondary Response – Keep the resource away from the oil.

3. Tertiary Response – Capture and treat oiled wildlife.

Primary Response

The primary response strategy for fish and wildlife protection emphasizes controlling the release and spread of spilled oil at the source to prevent or reduce contamination of potentially affected species, their habitats, and sensitive environments. Specific primary response options include: mechanical or physical means; chemical or biological treatment; in-situ burning; and natural recovery (Appendix N). Oiled carcass collection and the prevention of invasive species, especially rat infestation, are also considered primary response efforts.

Mechanical or physical methods are used to control spills through containment and recovery. Containment booms are used to control the spread of oil to reduce the possibility of polluting shorelines and other resources, as well as to concentrate oil in thicker surface layers, making recovery easier. Boom can also be deployed to keep oil that has been stranded on the shoreline from floating to another location. Recovery of contained or stranded oil can occur using various equipment and means including skimming, scraping, absorption, etc. Physical response methods include but are not limited to:

• Booming • Manual removal/Cleaning
• Skimming • Mechanical removal
• Barrier/Berm • Sorbents
• Physical Herding • Vacuum
• Debris removal • Flushing
• Vegetation removal • In-situ burning

Chemical treatment employs the use of dispersing agents, also called dispersants, that contain surfactants, or compounds that act to break liquid substances such as oil into small droplets. In an oil spill, these droplets disperse into the water column, where they are subjected to natural process—such as wind, waves, and currents—that help to break them down further. Chemical dispersants should only be used when the associated impacts of dispersed oil are less harmful than non-dispersed oil. All wildlife in the dispersant target zone should be identified prior to approving the use of dispersants. Birds within the dispersant target zone should be hazed or captured if they become contaminated. Dispersants should not be applied over large concentrations of birds.

Biological treatment uses biological agents such as nutrients, enzymes, or microorganisms that increase the rate at which natural biodegradation occurs. Biodegradation of oil is a natural process that slowly removes oil from the environment.

In-situ burning of oil involves the ignition and controlled combustion of oil. It can be used when oil is spilled on a water body or on land.

Natural recovery, leaving the oil alone, allows natural processes to remove the oil from the environment. Natural processes include evaporation, oxidation, and biodegradation. Natural recovery is not recommended for areas supporting wildlife concentrations.

Oiled carcass and debris retrieval operations are established in conjunction with primary response activities to remove short term sources of contamination and reduce food chain “contamination”. Oiled carcasses, vegetation, and debris are collected and removed to prevent secondary oiling or additional contamination of wildlife as a result of predation and grazing. Service responders are responsible for collecting, cataloging, and maintaining chain-of-custody for all oiled migratory bird carcasses. Procedures for carcass collection and cataloging may be found in Appendix D and Appendix J.

Rat/shipwreck response is also considered a primary response strategy. For marine islands with nesting bird populations, rat response tactics attempt to prevent potential rat colonization following a shipwreck or vessel grounding. This is primarily an issue in Alaska and Oceania regions where the offshore islands are isolated and sensitive environments that are very vulnerable to rat infestation following their escape from a wrecked or disabled vessel. The primary concern of the Service is rat colonization of “rat free” islands which support populations of nesting migratory birds. These nesting birds do not have natural defenses against rat predation and may be extirpated from the islands without a vigorous response effort. Other invasive species may be an issue in some cases, and responders should be aware of this potential problem.

Secondary Response

Secondary response methods to protect fish and wildlife from an oil spill involve maneuvering healthy and uncontaminated wildlife, away from contaminated sites by use of auditory or visual deterrents, hazing, and preemptive capture. Brief mention is made here of deterrence methods, but for more details, see Appendix D, “Best Practices for Migratory Bird Care During Spill Response” and Appendix L, Wildlife Response Plans for deterrence methods effective for particular species.

Following an oil spill, it may be necessary to initiate a deterrence or hazing program that disperses and excludes unoiled wildlife from contaminated areas to reduce exposure-related injury and mortality. If warranted, deterrence activities are initiated as soon as possible following an oil spill to prevent animals from establishing or continuing regular use patterns within a contaminated area. Deterrent devices used to disperse wildlife include both visual and auditory techniques, using both simple and sophisticated devices in order to respond to the unique habits of different species, surrounding environments, and the spill situations. Careful consideration should be given in the selection and placement of deterrence devices to prevent driving unoiled wildlife into oiled areas.

Pre-emptive capture includes the capture, handling, transportation, short-term holding and release of healthy, uncontaminated wildlife. Prior to initiating a pre-emptive capture effort, it is essential to establish a release site or a holding facility and a release plan. Pre-emptive capture is recommended when there is a high potential for oiling sensitive wildlife species that are not easily hazed. However, this secondary response option has limited application based on species-specific criteria. The primary concerns when conducting pre-emptive capture are human and animal safety and minimizing transportation and holding times. Safety of the animal should focus on stress reduction as follows:

• Have equipment necessary to handle and transport animals as quickly and efficiently as possible;

• Minimize the number of vessels, aircraft, all-terrain vehicles, etc. used to herd and capture animals in a given area;

• Avoid unnecessary noise and disturbance during capture efforts;

• Never pursue the animals to the point of exhaustion; and

• Minimize human contact with the animals except to provide necessary veterinary care.

Tertiary Response

Tertiary response is the capture and treatment—or rehabilitation—of wildlife contaminated by oil. It is implemented as the last resort for protecting wildlife. Oiled wildlife rehabilitation includes all elements related to capture, handling, transportation, stabilization, cleaning, care, holding, and release. The goal of a capture and treatment effort is the release of healthy wildlife back into their natural environment. The decision to initiate such an effort must consider incident-specific criteria. The criteria must be based on the best available science and focus on the protection and maintenance of healthy wild populations of the species affected by the spill. Considerations for initiating an oiled wildlife capture and treatment program include:

• Condition of the animal • Location of treatment
• Weather • Available care
• Oil toxicity • Facility
• Time • Release
• Species of animal • Zoonotic diseases
• Extent of oiling • Permits
• Care in captivity • Euthanasia

This response option is not necessarily limited to birds but is most frequently associated with birds over other species of wildlife. The MBTA and ESA authorize the Service to handle and do whatever is necessary to protect wildlife in the event of an emergency such as an oil spil (See Appendices E and O). It is the Service’s responsibility to ensure that the wildlife response contractor is qualified to treat and care for oiled wildlife, holds the appropriate permits, and maintains proper chain-of-custody procedures. The Service has oversight for all phases of a migratory bird rehabilitation effort. See Appendix D, “Best Practices for Migratory Bird Care During Spill Response” and Appendix L, Wildlife Response Plans.

Last updated: February 14, 2013