Mitigating an oil spill onboard CFAY

U.S. Navy photo by Motoji Sato
U.S. Navy photo by Motoji Sato

Mitigating an oil spill onboard CFAY

by Emiley Murphy
Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka

(YOKOSUKA, Japan) - On the evening of Oct. 12, 2019, a Panamanian tanker sank in Tokyo Bay when one of the largest and most violent tropical cyclones in decades, Typhoon Hagibis, approached mainland Japan. As the tanker sank, oil began leaking into the bay, creating an environmental issue for the surrounding areas.

On Oct. 13, contaminants had reached Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s (CFAY) boundary waters when a call to the installation’s Port Operations department reported an oil sheen. This was the start of what would become a journey toward long-term environmental protection and stewardship.

“We are one of the first responders in the event of an oil spill or sheen,” said Boatswains Mate 1st Class James Tinnelly with CFAY Port Operations. “Once we contain the spill using an oil spill response boom we start our cleanup efforts using oil absorbent material and utilizing our skimmer boats to clean up the spill.”

Once the spill was reported, following CFAY’s spill response protocol, Port Operations took initial action to contain the spill. Responsibility was then given to Public Works Department (PWD) Yokosuka’s environmental division, who employed oil absorbent pads as an initial preventative measure. Negotiations between PWD and the insurance company responsible for the tanker continued for months and were further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. An agreement was eventually reached and the environmental division was given the task of managing the project, which began Jan. 9, 2021.

Initially, the spill caused several locations to be contaminated with heavy oil and required shoreside and waterside cleanup. Over the course of several weeks, contractors worked tirelessly to complete the cleaning process, which involved cleaning identified sidewalks, soil, and quay walls using CFAY-approved detergents and hot-water, high-pressure washers. The contractors also removed 53 cubic meters of contaminated debris, ten 55-gallon drums, and three boxes full of waste collected during initial prevention measures by environmental staff at the Hazardous Waste Storage Area.

While cleaning, the contractors sprayed a biodegradable detergent onto the affected surfaces and, using hot-water, high pressure washers, worked to remove the heavy oil deposits. The detergent emulsified into a milky liquid and dissipated within a few hours. The contractors also deployed a boom and absorbent pads to contain the emulsified waste water.

“The cleanup process was essential to remove residual heavy oil contaminants in order to protect coastal aquatic resources from repeated exposure and was in compliance with the installation’s Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan,” said Amy Gavin, CFAY PWD environmental planning and conservation branch chief.

The project was completed on Feb. 19 after a final walkthrough by Capt. Rich Jarrett, CFAY’s commanding officer.

“The planning phase took a long time and I was very pleased for the project to begin. The contractor completed the work quickly. I was grateful that the contractor was [easy] to work with,” said Motoji Sato, PWD environmental planning and soil program manager. “They were not used to the base culture and the base environment, but they fully cooperated with all requirements.”

Jarrett’s commitment on behalf of CFAY is to practice environmental stewardship and believes that it is an essential part of the mission, which includes the preservation and protection of natural resources and the environment. CFAY is committed to preventing pollution at its source and to continuous improvement of environmental performance.

For more than 75 years, CFAY has provided, maintained and operated base facilities and services in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed naval forces, tenant commands, and thousands of military and civilian personnel and their families.

Photo Caption:
YOKOSUKA, Japan (February 17, 2021) – A contractor with the Bridge Company conducts hot water, high pressure cleaning to remove oil deposits on the boat ramp onboard Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY). In 2019 a Panamanian tanker sank in Tokyo Bay creating an oil spill that reached CFAY and required special cleaning to safely remove. For more than 75 years, CFAY has provided, maintained and operated base facilities and services in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed naval forces, tenant commands, and thousands of military and civilian personnel and their families.

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