J. STROM THURMOND DAM, Ga. – Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District participated in a tabletop exercise simulating a power plant oil spill at J. Strom Thurmond Dam on Feb. 10. The exercise presented a worst-case scenario of an oil spill with the intention of helping personnel become properly prepared and know the detailed procedures needed to handle such a situation.
“Spill response exercises are conducted annually with varying complexity,” said Mary Lawson, the environmental compliance coordinator at Thurmond Dam, who planned the exercise. “This tabletop was the last in a series of drills and exercises regarding spill response at the power plant.”
Lawson said they started with a simple drill for a spill in the power plant within secondary containment in August and conducted a boom deployment exercise in November. The District will continue to conduct exercises for various scenarios into the future on an ongoing basis and assess their vulnerabilities, such as oxygen incidents, sulfuric acid spills, aboveground storage tank leaks, and overturned boats in the lake that discharges oil.
The tabletop exercise, which was held both in person and virtually, was divided into three sections that covered the accident and immediate operator reaction, the short-term procedures to contain the spill, and the necessary actions to clean up the spill. Each section went through a series of questions and checklists to determine who needed to do what and when.
“I think the exercise was very effective and successful in accomplishing our objectives and we got great feedback during the exercise as well as during the Hotwash at the end of the exercise,” said Lawson.
The main objectives of the exercise were to test the adequacy of Thurmond’s spill prevention control and countermeasure plan (SPCCP), determine response notifications for the SPCCP, help familiarize personnel with the SPCCP, and develop any necessary changes to it, said Lawson. They also tested the efficiency of state and local responders to coordinate emergency efforts across multiple jurisdictions, clarify roles and responsibilities to improve communication and identify resource availabilities and gaps.
Participants included engineers, managers, and coordinators from Thurmond Dam, Richard B. Russell Dam, and Hartwell Dam. Personnel from federal, state, and local response agencies, local water and energy utilities, and oil spill response contractors were also present.
“I think it was beneficial for all who participated,” said Lawson. “The participants had a wealth of knowledge regarding spill response and shared lessons learned and ideas for improving our response strategies. The exercise brought many people together to network and build relationships.”