Emergency Response & Disaster Recovery

Ships putting out oil spill fire in the oceanDeepwater Horizon Oil Spill - Emergency Response Support

CSS mobilized more than 85 personnel through four separate contracts (one NOAA, three EPA) to the Gulf of Mexico in support of the federal response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. CSS also deployed Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT) data processing equipment as one of the first response assets on site. Initially, ASPECT generated infrared remote sensing data used to evaluate the hazard potential of vapors produced from open water oil burns near the Deepwater Horizon rig site. While supporting more than 75 ASPECT missions flown over a 5-month period, our staff developed enhancements in the analytical software giving ASPECT an advanced capability to correctly locate, characterize and quantify surface oil that could reach beaches and wetland areas. This enhancement improved the Incident Command's capability to locate surface oil and to direct U.S. Coast Guard oil skimmer vessel recovery efforts. Our personnel also collected and analyzed raw data from environmental samples and remote sensing (satellite) assets to create maps and models to predict and respond to subsurface oil that could pose threats to Gulf communities, fishing grounds and ecosystems. CSS scientists and data managers were deployed on 21 separate NOAA ships and contractor vessels, collecting and analyzing water and sediment samples to identify oil and dispersants. The data collected were used to refine sampling and monitoring strategies, and later used to assess whether to reopen fishing areas. CSS helped establish baseline levels of environmental contaminants provided data for the Mussel Watch program and served on Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams (SCAT) assessing and characterizing affected shorelines to document temporal and spatial changes in oil distribution and develop shore cleanup recommendations. Our staff also served as data managers working with the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) to meta-tag and analyze response data.