by Terry Rogers
On Monday, October 19, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) announced that they were in the process of containing an oil spill on Broadkill Beach. According to initial reports, DNREC was unsure where the oil spill initiated but estimated it to be about 215 gallons. Cleanup continued into Tuesday afternoon, according to Michael Globetti, spokesman for DNREC.
“The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control continues working today to assess and clean up an oil spill that came ashore yesterday at Broadkill Beach and have now affected several more southerly coastal locations, including Beach Plum Island near Cape Henlopen, the Roosevelt Inlet and Lewes,” Globetti said. “Some of the oil had been carried out into the Delaware Bay by last night’s high tide and dispersed elsewhere on the coast by noon today. DNREC and the U.S. Coast Guard were deploying contractors to clean up as much oil as possible before another tide carried more oil out into the bay.”
Globetti explained that cleanup operations were being conducted under the unified command between DNREC and the Coast Guard with additional contractors under the Coast Guard and mobilized DNREC staff expected throughout the day on Tuesday.
“Monday evening’s estimate of five barrels spilled may grow, but there is no further estimate on the spill’s size at this time,” Globetti said. “The source for the oil has not been determined. The cleanup is expected to take multiple days as globs and pools of oil must be removed from beaches manually. While the source of the oil spill was still unknown, DNREC provided samples of the oil today to the U.S. Coast Guard to be analyzed for a “petroleum fingerprint” that might determine where it came from. The oil was described by DNREC Emergency Response as “heavy fuel oil,” likely leaking from an operating vessel, not crude oil from the hold of a tanker.”
DNREC Emergency Response has no reported or sighted impacts to wildlife, and also noted the vast n umbers of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs that flock to the Bay coast each summer had departed on their annual migration elsewhere. The spill, which spanned three-quarters of a mile of upper Delaware Bay coastline on Monday was estimated to have spread to up to seven miles of beach by Tuesday morning, with DNREC noting that tide had fragmented the oil from larger pooling to smaller-sized speckling on the beaches.
“The DNREC Environmental Crimes Unit maintains a toll-free 24-hour emergency response line,” Nikki Lavoie, spokesperson for DNREC, said. “Additional reports of incidents may be provided by calling the toll-free number. We are currently working to clean up this spill which is a very labor-intensive process. It involves shovels to remove tar balls and contaminated sand.”
Globetti stated that DNREC gauged the size of the spill using a reconnaissance flight over the upper Bay in partnership with the Delaware State Police Aviation Unit. Anyone who discovers wildlife that may have come in contact with the oil are asked not to try to treat the animal or bird themselves but to contact DNREC. The agency is also asking anyone with information about where the spill may have originated to contact the toll-free 24-hour emergency line at 800-662-8802.