Unified Command
U.S. Coast Guard /Rhode Island DEM /Penn Maritime Inc.

RELEASE NO: 007-12

July 12, 2000


(401) 847-7573

Newport- New Information Relating to the Penn Maritime Barge PENN 460 Oil Spill

Oil Spill Bulletin with links to closure area maps, etc.

Most of Closed Area Reopened to Fishing

The Unified Command is pleased to announce that all but 180 acres of the fisheries closure, imposed as a result of the July 5th oil spill, are being reopened as of noon today.

"Today's re-opening of the majority of the area that had been closed in last week's spill is wonderful news for fishermen who derive their living from the bay and all those who travel its waters," said Governor Lincoln Almond. "The re-opening of most of the fishery in a matter of days following the spill is a testament to the hard work, quick response and professionalism of all those who participated in the clean up. On behalf of all Rhode Islanders, I congratulate them on their efforts."

Personnel from the Rhode Island Departments of Health (DOH) and Environmental Management (DEM) have conducted a survey of lobster pots in the area closed to fishing to determine whether a portion of that area could be reopened. The lobster pot inspection, which was carried out with the cooperation of a respected local lobsterman, showed that no oil got below the immediate surface of the water. The lobsters and the lobster pots were closely inspected for any sign of oil. While most of the trawl line floats were stained with oil, the staining did not extend much below the waterline.

Additionally, the analysis of water quality samples taken around the closed area on Friday showed no detectable oil. Based on the visual inspection, results of water sample analysis and computer models, the Unified Command determined that it was safe to re-open more of the closed area.

The remaining closed area is directly opposite the active shoreline removal areas. This closure will remain in effect while cleanup operations continue. The closure area extends from a high flyer (flagged metal pole) at the westernmost end of Midway Pier in Portsmouth; southwest to a high flyer 250 yards west of McAllister Point; south to a high flyer at the first bend in the Coddington Cove Breakwater.

The Coast Guard has revised the safety zone to correspond exactly with the remaining closure area.

Officials from the DOH will continue to monitor lobster dealers. While the department has confidence in the quality of lobsters taken from the reopened area, the inspections are being conducted as an added measure of control.

This reopening is complicated slightly by the fact that the pot floats are, in many cases, still oiled. In order to properly dispose of these floats the Responsible Party will have boats in the area handing out special disposal bags and gloves to the lobstermen. The lobstermen will be asked to cut the floats from the lines and bag them. The contractors will then collect the bags at sea and provide the lobstermen with new floats.

For those lobstermen who still have pots in the area that will remain closed, DEM will arrange to escort them into the closed area to release their catch and remove their gear. The Responsible Party will reimburse the lobstermen as part of the claims process. The escorts can be arranged by calling DEM at the Command Post, at 401-847-7603.

Techniques to refloat oil trapped in the rocky shoreline are being used. One such technique using a rubber- tired front end loader to agitate the rocks in a small area proved successful, yesterday. Wider scale application of this technique will commence today. Recovery operations will continue until the clean up is completed.

The Coast Guard reports that all of the crew members on the tug and barge were tested for drugs and alcohol. All tests are negative.

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