The events of the Dalco Passage oil spill a couple years ago near Vashon Island may have got you thinking ‘what would I do if an oil spill were to occur in front of my own beach?’ To answer this question, I helped create an evening program for local waterfront home owners. Here are key points you need to know.

When a marine spill occurs, the creator of the spill is fully responsible for its clean-up. The Coast Guard is the official federal onsite coordinator and the Washington Department of Ecology plays a major supporting role. Their job is to ensure the spill is contained, collect evidence, conduct enforcement, and prevent recurrence.

One quart of oil can create an oil slick covering 2 acres of water. A spill in Puget Sound needs to be quickly contained to reduce damage to wildlife and your property. The experts recommend that if a spill occurs, waterfront home owners do the following:

  1. Report sightings of spills, sheens, or pollution in the water around your community (800-424-8802).
  2. Do not volunteer your services to help. While well meaning, it actually takes time away from the authorities in addressing the issue. The effort and personnel needed to train and coordinate civilians on the spot actually reduces critical reaction times and effectiveness for containment and clean-up. Further, professional spill remediation companies are usually called in.
  3. Allow access across your property from roads to beaches for emergency response personnel and clean-up crews.
  4. Provide local knowledge when response crews request information (access points, tides/currents, roads, local points of contact).

You can also join Northwest Watch. This is a local program of volunteer waterfront and waterview home owners who are willing to be called by the Coast Guard in the event of an on-water emergency. These home owners may be asked to relay on-location information such as the whereabouts of a vessel, flares in the air, progression of an oil spill, weather and visibility conditions, local communications, and local knowledge. A very worthwhile group, plus you get to be directly in the loop and receive information before the general public.

Summary notes, forum handouts, and web links to the organizations mentioned above are available at

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