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Posted 3/26/2015

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By By Marie Darling
Engineer Research Development Center


HANOVER, N.H. – The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) recently hosted Alaska Clean Seas’ (ACS) Advanced Oil Spill Response Training; it was the fourth year they hosted the event. ACS representatives onsite included the course lead, while others provide training station instruction and certification. 

The course was completed over one week, training approximately 40 spill response personnel.  These groups represented various oil companies and agencies working the oil industry in cold regions.  CRREL Research Civil Engineer Leonard Zabilansky provided logistical oversight and technical assistance to representatives of ACS for their training effort.

The course combined both classroom and hands-on components.  In the classroom, students reviewed the technical aspects and methodology of recovery, and then dedicated hours of hands-on training at different training stations.  

To prepare the “outdoor” classroom, oil was injected under the 18-inch sea ice surface on CRREL’s Geophysical Research Facility (GRF) providing training stations for delineating an oil spill under ice; deploying and using drum, brush and mop skimmers; and oil burning. The pond on CRREL’s campus was used for ice safety and deploying techniques for recovering oil under ice in rivers.  

According to Zabilansky, who also provides a site workshop on ice safety and profiling, “The responders are working on ice and it is important for them to know the basic engineering properties of ice, parameters for static and moving loads on sheet ice and river ice safety.  One key aspect of the training is safety indicators to look for while working on lake and river ice.”

A new component this year was comprehensive ice safety and self-rescue taught by Rescue Canada Resource Group, which included a “dip” in the nearby icy White River.

“What we are trying to do is to build confidence in working around water and ice,” said Bill Harris, a lead safety technician with Rescue Canada Resource Group.  “Making good decisions on ice and water bring awareness of safety considerations.”

A majority of ice responders spend their work life in remote areas of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, on a rotating schedule (three weeks on, with two weeks off) and during their off time, many return home to fish, hunt and snowmobile. 

“The skills we teach them for ice safety in this class are geared for work,” said Harris, “but we know that they can use this training and knowledge beyond work to stay safe while recreating.”

Initially, CRREL hosted a week-long course in February 2012 and two one-week courses in January and February 2013, followed in 2014 by a week-long course with a separate field orientation workshop. 

“As part of our field training we include a wide range of practical exercises in spill site safety, site setup, ice profiling, ice rescue, delineation, containment and recovery tactics and decontamination,” said Pat Cosgrove, a lead ACS instructor.  “Working with CRREL we are able to provide hands-on training with Alaska crude oil in an ice environment.  For most of the responders this is the first time, and hopefully the only time, they will deal with oil recovery.  The participants become familiar with all the tools and limitation of the equipment used to delineate and mitigate oil spills.  The CRREL facilities and easy access to the White River in Vermont are ideal for this comprehensive training course.”

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