Coast Guard “not ready” to respond to a Great Lakes oil spill

Michigan Great LakesCommunities weren’t ready for the Enbridge oil spill more than four years ago near the Kalamazoo river. Now Coast Guard officials say they are in the same boat in the event of an oil spill on the Great Lakes.

The U.S Coast Guard 9th district-which oversees the Great Lakes- released a report stating they are not adequately equipped or prepared for a “heavy” oil spill on the Great Lakes.

The report was blunt regarding the Coast Guards limitations in dealing with heavy oil. That’s oil that sinks below the surface and makes traditional recovery methods ineffective.

Officials say once oil sinks, numerous factors determine which course of action responders take.

Jerry Popiel is an incident management adviser for the 9th Coast Guard District.

He said, “The thing we’re looking for from the Coast Guard perspective is more ability to recover oil from the bottom of a great lake, for example. So overall we feel like our state of readiness on the personnel side of things is pretty good, but technology for recovering bottom oil is not as good.”

Popiel said there’s work that needs to be done moving forward.

He said, “Bringing the players together ahead of time saying ‘ok we have a known transportation system here and with any transportation system there are risks that are involved and here’s how we will or would tackle them if the unthinkable happened’ so I think that’s the most important thing is the exercises, the pre-planning, getting ready and bringing all the resources to the scene ahead of time. That’s the key piece.”