Lake Champlain Sea Grant Hosts Oil Spill Workshop

By Lake Champlain Sea Grant Staff
May 01, 2019

University of Vermont (UVM) graduate student Jason Scott organized and facilitated an oil spill preparedness workshop on May 1, 2019 on the Lake Champlain waterfront in Burlington, Vermont. Lake Champlain Sea Grant (LCSG), UVM Extension, UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Vermont Boat and Marina Association sponsored the event.

“Fuel oil spills on Lake Champlain are infrequent, but data suggests smaller spills may not always be reported,” said Scott, a first-year master’s student in the Rubenstein School and a U.S. Coast Guard Officer. “Oil discharges from vessels and fueling stations degrade the lake water quality and can threaten drinking water and important aquatic habitat.”

At the half-day training session, more than twenty marina owners and operators, emergency managers, and fire department personnel learned about fuel oil spill prevention and response techniques specific to marinas on Lake Champlain. The workshop was organized as a follow-up to a recent LCSG survey which revealed a lack of experience with oil spill response equipment at marinas and a need for clarification on current regulations.

“It’s really important to get members of the response community in the same room discussing roles and responsibilities in a relaxed setting,” said Scott. “You don’t want to be meeting each other for the first time at two in the morning during an emergency.”

Instructors from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Coast Guard covered health and safety, state and federal regulations, and waste management guidelines during a classroom session at the Community Sailing Center in Burlington. At the adjacent Coast Guard boat launch, personnel from the National Response Corporation (NRC), the world’s largest oil spill response organization, displayed equipment, including a containment boom, skimmer, and vacuum truck, and demonstrated how to deploy the equipment in the lake to clean up oil spills.

“This training provided practical tips and techniques that marina owners and operators and those engaged in emergency response can follow to minimize oil spills and react with confidence in the event of an accidental spill into Lake Champlain or another surface water body,” said Kris Stepenuck, Lake Champlain Sea Grant Extension Leader and UVM Extension Assistant Professor. “The time commitment of participants to attend demonstrates their dedication to ensuring the health of local waterbodies.”