Following the extensive three-year cleanup effort, the U.S. Coast Guard is ending active cleanup operations in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and has announced that the three states are expected to complete the transition back to the National Response Center (NRC) reporting system by mid June 2013. The announcement is the result of the extraordinary progress made cleaning the Gulf of Mexico shoreline.
Working under the direction of the Coast Guard, and in cooperation with state agencies and local governments, BP has spent more than $14 billion and 70 million personnel hours on response and cleanup activities. Due to the extensive cleanup effort, early restoration projects and natural recovery processes, the Gulf is returning to its baseline condition, which is the condition it would be in if the accident had not occurred.
At its peak in 2010, the response and cleanup effort involved more than 48,000 people. More than 110,000 miles of aerial reconnaissance flights were conducted across 14,000 miles of shoreline. Assessment teams then conducted ground-based surveys across nearly 4,400 miles of shoreline, identifying approximately 1,100 miles that experienced some level of oiling and 778 miles that required some measure of cleaning.
Amenity beaches were generally cleaned to depths of up to five feet, using mechanical equipment that sifts out residual oil and other debris from below the beach surface while returning clean sand to the beach. Removing the residual oil and other debris left the beaches cleaner than they had been in years.
In places where oil reached marshes, extensive efforts were taken to identify the best options for treating the areas without causing further damage. Multiple techniques were used to remove residual oil and promote natural attenuation.
To effectively locate material and clean the shoreline, BP used existing equipment as well as new techniques and equipment developed specifically to respond to the accident. This included deploying new sonar and laser technologies – and assessment teams with snorkels – to look for submerged oil mats, as well as drilling tens of thousands of augering holes in search of residual material that may have been buried under layers of sand deposited by storms and tidal activity.
"The transition is a significant milestone toward fulfilling our commitment to clean the Gulf shoreline and ensuring that the region's residents and visitors can fully enjoy this majestic environment," said Laura Folse, BP's Executive Vice President for Response and Environmental Restoration. "Even as the Coast Guard has made the decision to move these states to the National Response Center reporting system, should residual Macondo oil appear on the shoreline, BP remains committed and prepared to address it under the direction of the Coast Guard."
Following established response protocols, the Coast Guard will investigate reports of oil received by the NRC and identify the source and find the responsible party. If the Coast Guard determines the material is residual MC252 oil and directs the company to respond, BP will remove it, just as is required of any responsible party.
“We have worked with the Coast Guard and other stakeholders to prepare for this transition and will maintain the resources necessary to respond when directed by the Coast Guard,” said Folse. “Transitioning to the National Response Center process will reduce our footprint on the shoreline, which will further minimize disruptions to the environment and to beach and park visitors.”
Today, operational activity has ended on 4,272 of the 4,376 shoreline miles that were in the area of response. Patrolling and maintenance activities continue on 84 shoreline miles in Louisiana, with another 20 miles in Louisiana pending approval or final monitoring or inspection. In addition, BP recently reached agreement with state and federal Trustees on 28 additional early restoration projects totaling approximately $594 million. Overall, BP and the Trustees have announced 38 projects totaling approximately $665 million.
People can report possible sightings of oil-based material to the National Response Center by calling 1-800-424-8802 or filing an online report at http://www.nrc.uscg.mil/.