Cleanup on aisle ‘shoreline’

SCAT team members are the eyes for those in the unified command.

SCAT team members are the eyes for those in the unified command.

Story and photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart

When oil spills occur, the Coast Guard assigns trained personnel to survey the scene, protect the environment and conduct evaluations.  The Coast Guard specifically employs the Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT) teams comprised of trained personnel with expertise in oil and cleanup techniques, geomorphology, (and in some cases, archeology) to assist in cleaning up the beaches and shoreline areas. 

SCAT is a systematic method for surveying shoreline areas after an oil spill.  It was developed during the Exxon Valdez oil spill when responders needed a way to document spill impact on miles of affected shoreline.

“SCAT is able to provide the unified command (an emergency response structure comprised of different government agencies) with information and data necessary to describe the areas of shoreline,” said Jordan Stout, 11th Coast Guard District scientific support coordinator from NOAA Emergency Response Division.  “It supports the decision making process for the shoreline cleanup and ensures the treatment strategy is effective and minimizes the impact on the economy.” 

"The main goal for SCAT is to find an endpoint and restore the shoreline and beaches as if the spill never occurred."

“The main goal for SCAT is to find an endpoint and restore the shoreline and beaches as if the spill never occurred.”

Stout explained that the data collected consists of a sketched map of the area that indicates the shoreline type, the sensitive areas, different habitats, access areas, restricted areas, and characteristics of the oil.  The map is augmented with photographs and various forms and allows the unified command to consider all the elements for oil spill response to conduct cleanup evaluations.

“Because SCAT team members are the eyes for those in the unified command, they need to make sure the information they are capturing uses standardized language and is consistent.  It allows the command to have confidence in the information they receive,” Stout said.

The Coast Guard Pacific Area Strike Team and Coast Guard 11th District members held training seminars and field exercises November 12-14 in Alameda, Calif., with agencies including biologists from NOAA and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) to practice their SCAT training.  The Coast Guard conducts joint agency training on a daily basis to ensure it’s members are subject matter experts and able to respond to a real world oil spill with speed and efficiency. 

The Coast Guard conducts joint agency training on a daily basis to ensure its members are subject matter experts.

The Coast Guard conducts joint agency training on a daily basis to ensure its members are subject matter experts.

Lt. Karl Breedlove, assigned to Coast Guard 11th District Response Advisory Team, said the Coast Guard is lucky to be able to work alongside members of NOAA and OSPR to receive their expert advice on how oil impacts local habitats and the resources used.

“We appreciate that NOAA and OSPR provide scientific support and their assistance on a daily basis,” said Breedlove.  “The main goal for SCAT is to find an endpoint and restore the shoreline and beaches as if the spill never occurred.  Working with local agencies allows us to meet our objective.”

For more information on Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique, click here

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