Mother Nature aids cleanup of Delaware River oil spill

    Cleanup of the 1,000 gallons of crude oil that spilled into the Delaware River from a refinery near the Commodore Barry Bridge continues — with the help of an unlikely ally.

    The arctic temperatures might be making conditions uncomfortable for the cleanup crew, but they may have helped.

    “The ice, actually, that was in that area, acted as a natural barrier and a natural containment, and it actually held a lot of the oil in the one spot — in the spot around the pier face,” said Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Tracy Wirth. “So in this instance the ice helped us to keep that oil close by.”

    Favorable winds and tide helped keep the spill from spreading too far, as did Monroe Energy LLC’s quick reporting of the Monday incident at its Marcus Hook facility, she said.

    “They were able to put two strings of boom around, and they were able to contain the oil,” said Wirth. “We’ve done overflights — with Coast Guard helicopters — to verify that the oil has stayed within the boom and has not come out into the river.”

    Now, the task is to finish removing the oil from the surface using vacuums and skimmers, including a specialized boat owned by the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative.

    “It’s a 68-foot, 100-ton oil-skimming vessel, with a 10,000-gallon storage capacity,” said Wirth. “So it’s quite a big vessel that comes up and skims oil as well.”

    They will also use cranes to deposit contaminated ice in storage units so that it can melt and that oil, too, can be removed. As of Tuesday morning, Wirth said they had recovered about 700 gallons of oil, but cleanup and monitoring will for several more days. No wildlife appears to have been harmed.

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