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Volunteers learn oil spill cleanup basics

By Staff | Jun 16, 2010

Rick Reeby and Joanne Semmer of the Ostego Bay Oil Spill Co-Op stand in front of the response trailer filled with emergency clean up equipment including buoys, towing bridles and sorbent materials.

More than 150 people attended the Ostego Bay Oil Spill Co-Op volunteer training sessions, sponsored by the Captiva Erosion Prevention District, on Monday at South Seas Island Resort.

During the two four-hour sessions, volunteers were instructed on the basics of post-emergency beach cleanup based on criteria from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), including the removal tar balls and patties that might wash ashore due to the massive oil spill that began in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

The mission of the Ostego Bay Oil Spill Co-op is to “protect our coastal waters through education, training and preparedness” and, according to Joanne Semmer, trainer and president of the Ostego Bay Oil Spill Co-op, the main goals of the OBOS co-op sessions are safety and education.

“First aid is the first part of the program, which is required by OSHA. We went over the basics — bites, stings, heat exhaustion and heat stroke — and what to do if any of those things happen to you,” said OBOS instructor Rick Reeby.

Semmer covered topics such as land and water spill response, tar balls in the coastal environment and various oil spill cleanup devices such as booms and sorbents were demonstrated.

“Our class is a little more intense than some of the other four-hour classes. But we want them to actually understand what’s going on and what equipment and techniques are being used, so that when they see it on t.v., they have a better understanding. You can never get too much education,” Semmer said.

Semmer has been training people about oil spill prevention and clean up for 17 years.

“We’ve been training from Boca Grande all the way down into Marco Island and up the river into Moore Haven. We train them not to spill, but we also train them that if there is a spill, how to stop it and contain it as quickly as possible and minimize any environmental damage. The Coast Guard has documentation that states in our oil spill co-op area, spills have been reduced by more than 50 percent and, any spills that we’ve had have been minimal. We hope that it has to do with all this training that we do,” she said.

After the training session, volunteers were permitted to look through one of the OSBO’s response trailers, which is filled with items to help contain and clean up hazardous materials such as oil, in addition to generators and communications equipment.

“We had someone ask about stationing a response trailer here on Captiva so if there is an emergency, someone can hook right up to the trailer and go right to the site and immediately start pulling equipment,” Semmer said.

Volunteers who completed the OSHA-approved training are now certified for emergency oil spill beach clean up and can safely pick up tar balls and oiled debris on the beach.

CEPD administrator Kathy Rooker was thrilled with the massive turnout at the training sessions. People from all over Lee County were in attendance, including many representatives from island businesses and organizations.

“We’re very pleased because this continues our mission to be very engaged with the community. We’re thrilled to see our citizens becoming engaged with the CEPD instead of just sitting back and waiting for other people to step forward,” Rooker said. “It’s wonderful to see our community come forward and take care of things themselves.”

Rooker said that there will be additional training sessions in July for people who were not able to attend the June sessions due to being waitlisted.

For more information about oil spills and the Ostego Bay Oil Spill Co-op, go to www.ostegobay.org/oilspill.htm.