Oil Spill Response:
Oil spills are common events, happening on land and water, at any time of the day and in any weather condition. When oil is spilled/released in the environment it can endanger public health, imperil drinking water, devastate natural resources, and disrupt the economy. Preventing oil spills is the best strategy for avoiding potential damage to human health and the environment, therefore, Oil Spill Prevention Planning is a critical part of ensuring quick and organized response measures.
Containment and cleanup are your goal in a spill, however, the primary consideration is human safety. Emergency responders must understand the fundamental differences between safety considerations for petroleum product responses and those for other hazardous materials incidents.
See Hazardous Waste and Emergency Response Training Requirements
In the event of an oil spill:
Notify primary response agencies and affected state and federal natural resources trustees if numbers are readily available. Each state will have discharge notification and reporting requirements that you can find online or with your state's environment protection office. Regional response teams are also identified in each state.
The National Response Center is the SOLE national point of contact for reporting Oil, Chemical, Radiological and Biological discharges.
Report Spills to the NRC at 1-800-424-8802
Resist rushing in and identify and understand the hazards before attempting to help others.
Position yourself upwind, uphill, or upstream from the hazard.
Stay clear of all vapors, fumes, smoke, and spills even if no hazardous materials are known to be involved. Do not assume spilled materials and their by-products are harmless. Many extremely toxic gases and vapors are colorless, odorless, tasteless, and invisible.
Isolate and secure the scene without entering the immediate hazard area. Assess the situation and attempt to determine, from a safe distance, upwind, uphill, upstream, using binoculars if possible.
Protect yourself and the public. Prevent the public from entering the spill site or its perimeter or coming into contact with spilled material. Everyone who is not adequately trained and protected should stay upwind an out of low areas.
Do not walk into or touch spilled material and avoid inhalation.
Call for the assistance of trained personnel as soon as conditions permit. Keep the spill site secure and wait for properly trained officials.
Evacuations in response to releases of oil or hazardous materials shall be conducted in accordance with Local Emergency Response Plans (LERP). The LERP identifies under what circumstances evacuation is appropriate and necessary.
Contaminants of Concern:Contaminants of concern are based on the type of substance, usually a liquid, being stored in the UST. Petroleum products (e.g., motor fuels, petroleum solvents, heating oil, lubricants, used oil) consist of the majority of UST's, however any number of hazardous substances may also be stored in UST's. Common contaminants of concern for petroleum substances include:
- BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene)
- methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE)
Any oil spill can pose a serious threat to human health and the environment, requires remediation that extends beyond your facility's boundary, and results in substantial cleanup costs. Even a small spill can have a serious impact. A single pint of oil released into the water can cover one acre of water surface area and can seriously damage an aquatic habitat. A spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate a million gallons of water.
- BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene)
- Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) (octane booster and clean air additive for gasoline)
- Carbon dioxide (inerting atmosphere, byproduct of combustion)
- Carbon monoxide (byproduct of combustion)
- Benzo(a)pyrene and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (formed when oil or gasoline burns)
- Hydrogen sulfide (oils high in sulfur, decaying plants and animals)
- Sulfuric acid (byproduct of combustion of sour petroleum product)
Implementing Solutions:Research federal, state, and local governmental agencies response plans to become well-informed of current procedures before developing your own. This will ensure coordinated efforts with these agencies when necessary and for purposes describes in your plan. For example, the Alaska Regional Response Team provides a Unified Plan for agencies and organizations to participate in response to pollution incidents and Appendix II of the Health, Safety, and Training section includes training guidelines for local emergency planning committees. The State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) has a Disaster Response Plan, which includes procedures in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. ADEC also has Alaska response plans by region online. Any of these existing plans can be referenced and/or incorporated into your own plan.
Please submit your experiences (successes/challenges) and tribal-specific documents to share on our website using the attached form.
Resources:EPA Understanding Oil Spills and Oil Spill Response 1999 [pdf]
EPA R10 Guidance for Preparing Tribal Emergency Response Plans [pdf]
EPA Facility Response Planning Compliance Assistance Guide [pdf]
NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards [pdf]
2008 Emergency Response Guidebook [pdf]
ATSDR Fact Sheet Fuel Oils [pdf]
IPIECA Oil Spill Responder Safety Guide [pdf]
NIEHS Safety & Health Awareness for Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Powerpoint [ppt]
NIEHS Safety & Health Awareness for Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Booklet [pdf]
USCG Oil Spill Response in Fast Currents [pdf]
ADEC Spill Prevention and Response Heating Oil Tank Guidance [html]
Websites:National Response System (NRS) ? The designated federal point of contact for reporting all oil, chemical, radiological, biological and etiological discharges into the environment, anywhere in the United States and its territories:
USCG National Response Center:
EPA Response Information:
Alaska Federal and State Preparedness Plan for Response to Oil and Hazardous Substances Discharges and Releases:
Related Pages:Aboveground Storage Tanks
Hazardous Waste and Emergency Response Training Requirements
Underground Storage Tanks
For more information, please contact:
Todd Barnell, Program Manager
Jennifer Williams, Alaska Program Coordinator, Sr.
Last updated: July 10, 2015