More than a dozen environmental workers had gone out before dawn Tuesday to the far south of St. Simons Island to collect and bag oil soaked sand and spray finely ground sphagnum moss on blackened swamp grass as part of the continuing response to Saturday’s Golden Ray oil spill.
“We will be here for several days,” said Michael Himes, US Coast Guard spokesman for the unified command.
In the hours following the spill of an unknown quantity of fuel oil on Saturday evening at ebb tide, oil puddles formed during the rising tides along the beach at the southern tip of the island. Oil also blanketed Johnson Rocks and the beach to the north, most of which was removed on Sunday morning.
“With the tidal cycle, it lifts the oil and it paints the grass,” Himes said.
Workers used equipment similar to leaf blowers to coat the black grass with brown, powdery Sphag Sorb. The partially absorbed oil becomes less sticky and falls off with the incoming tide cycles rather than spreading further and sticking to more grass, Himes said.
The oil and contaminated sand can then be shoveled into bags for removal, but removal crews will not dig up any grass, he said.
Meanwhile, a large amount of oil is still contained in a barrier around the vessel where the third of the last of the eight sections has been severed and is suspended from the VB 10,000 crane to be removed by a floating dry dock.
In order to bring the barge under the cut section, a door in the containment boom must be opened. The Unified Command wants to make sure no oil escapes when the barge floats through the opening, Himes said.
Because the cut section is at the western end, the tide must go down and there must be enough time to close the door before the tide changes, he said.
“The problem is… it’s not done in two hours,” Himes said.
Once the barge is installed on the floating dry dock, it will remain there until it is safely secured so that it can be towed into port.