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Exercise in Taunton, Mass. Simulates Massive Oil Spill to Taunton River


Dozens of federal, state and local responders teamed up with the Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant (TMLP) to simulate a large-scale oil spill into the Taunton River today.

TMLP hosted the complex, multi-agency exercise during which emergency personnel from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection, the Taunton Emergency Management Agency, the Taunton Police Department, and fire departments from Taunton, Berkley, Raynham, Dighton, participated.

The exercise scenario involves a catastrophic failure of the larger of TMLP’s two oil tanks, simulating a release of approximately 2.2 million gallons of oil into the Taunton River. The day-long exercise requires the deployment of at least 1000 feet of oil containment boom on the River, using boats to install boom away from the immediate vicinity of the plant. Oil containment boom is used to either limit the spread of oil from an impacted area, prevent it from entering uncontaminated areas or to corral oil so that it can be removed from contaminated areas.

Companies that store large amounts of oil, such as TMLP must comply with strict rules to prevent oil releases and must prepare and adhere to facility-specific oil spill prevention plans, making an actual release of this magnitude unlikely. However, if all preventative measures were to fail due to an unanticipated event such as a natural disaster or terrorist incident, emergency responders must be prepared to lessen the environmental impact that would inevitably be caused by such a release.

“Planning for a release on this scale better prepares all participants for an oil spill of any size, and there is no substitute for working with stakeholders ahead of an actual emergency,” stated EPA Regional Administrator Bob Varney. “I commend all of the participants and thank TMLP’s for hosting this emergency response exercise.”

“Local, state and federal agencies work each day to make sure that oil spills do not occur and impact our precious natural resources,” said MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt. “Nonetheless, we must be prepared and be able to effectively respond to a catastrophic release. Today’s training drill will help ensure that responders are ready.”


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