Oil spill training conducted on Penobscot River

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BREWER, Maine (WABI) - Half a dozen vehicles from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection responded to the banks of the Penobscot River in Brewer today.

There was no real emergency. It was a training session for people like Tiffany Laclaire, an Oil/Hazmat responder with MDEP.

"Some days we could be in a basement cleaning up someone's oil spill from a home heating oil tank that may have leaked. Sometimes we're on the water cause we have a sheen or some petroleum on the water. Sometimes we're on the interstate where a tractor trailer or oil delivery truck has rolled over, and oil is all over the place. You never really know."

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has around 200 pre-planned responses to emergency situations.

Ginger McMullin is a response planning coordinator with MDEP. "It's a major operation. It's pretty much an all day affair to get one of these large strategies out, but we try to test as many as we can each year."

Most DEP oil spill response strategies focus on coastal scenarios, but ten of those strategies focus on inland rivers like the Penobscot in Brewer.

"Today, we're testing out a specific plan for containing and recovering oil should there be a large oil spill along the river. So what we're going to do is put out about 1200 feet of oil spill containment boom which we have on a reel down here."

The booms are designed to divert the floating oil to a point on shore where it can be contained and collected.

"On the Penobscot here, there has been a rail car incident not too many years ago, and often there are oil tanker trucks that might spill and that can be several thousand gallons, so a strategy like this would work for something like that."

The training helps work out any kinks in a plan and gives responders the experience necessary to work effectively.

Laclaire says the training is essential. "If you're not familiar with the response or with how things are gonna go when the real life incident happens, you don't know if you're going to be ready for it. We do emergency response, so it's things that need to be cleaned up in a hurry."