New oil boom system tested in IR Inlet

Coast Guard can't use old bridge supports anymore
A crew from Clean Ventures Inc. deploys oil-containment booms in the Indian River Inlet during a May 14 training exercise. BY RON MACARTHUR
May 17, 2013

Removal of the old Indian River Inlet bridge is nearing completion.

Unknown to most, the old bridge supports in the inlet served as anchors for oil containment booms in case of an oil spill by a ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Although they were never used in that capacity to protect the Inland Bays, without the bridge supports state environmental officials were forced to devise a new system to deploy containment booms.

A training exercise to implement that new system took place May 14 in Indian River Inlet. Under the watchful eyes of U.S. Coast Guard and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials, crews from Delaware River and Bay Cooperative and Clean Ventures Inc. deployed several hundred feet of boom anchored to the shoreline to test out a boom-vane system.

Ellen Malenfant, a member of DNREC's emergency response team, said the system is specifically designed for areas with strong currents; the current in the inlet can run as high as 5 knots.

The boom vane is connected to the end of conventional boom as a sort of anchor because it is stable even in current and waves.

She said the idea behind the system is to deploy several collection and deflection booms in the inlet near the bridge to contain a spill and allow boats to skim or vacuum up the oil. The Coast Guard, which has the ultimate authority in managing oil-spill containment, recently acquired the new boom vanes to protect coastal areas such as Indian River Inlet.

Malenfant said the exercise was considered a success and will lead to more training exercises in the future. “The crew learned what works and what doesn't work,” she said. “And they also learned more about the inlet and where they need to go from here. They are anxious to get more practice.