Oil in the water – it could happen here

Most of us are dismayed by the slowly developing environmental catastrophe caused by the out of control BP Deepwater Horizon wellhead. This oil will come ashore and it will contaminate the largest and most productive coastal wetlands in the U.S. and the lovely Gulf beaches.

Although the Gulf and the Salish Sea are ecologically vastly different, we do share hazards associated with petroleum products. Even though the quantity of at risk oil in our waters is smaller, imagine a tanker torn open on a reef, oil bathing our rocky shores, un-cleanable just like those in Prince William Sound, fouling our shallow bays, orca, dolphins, seals, and birds doomed by oil in the water.

There are response plans and resources poised to respond to a spill in our county. Boats, booms, and trained personnel from several oil spill cleanup companies are prepared to deploy within a few hours of a large spill. However, our first line of defense and the first responders to a San Juan County spill will be Islands Oil Spill Association (IOSA). Since 1988, IOSA has provided the only private, non-profit, community based spill response in the Pacific Northwest. With over 300 containment and cleanup volunteers, many trained in oiled wildlife search, rescue and rehabilitation, IOSA provides rapid spill assessment and stands ready 24/7/365 to respond within two hours, anywhere in our county.

IOSA has offered to provide BP trained certified personnel to deploy to Louisiana and while we hope that the well is soon capped, the cleanup and the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation will be a huge long term effort. Keep all the inhabitants of the Gulf in mind, but keep the home team in mind too. Consider becoming an IOSA volunteer or financial supporter. Remember, a lot of oil could also end up in our waters.

San Olson

IOSA volunteer

Lopez Island