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Islander Students Hit the Water During Spring Break Oil Spill Response Course

March 16, 2017

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Many environmentally conscious Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi students made time during Spring Break to attend the National Spill Control School’s (NSCS) Oil Spill Response course. After two days of in-class instruction, the students ventured into the water to practice their skills Wednesday, March 15, through Friday, March 17 in the Corpus Christi Marina. This course was attended by 29 college students, nine industry professionals, and four volunteer industry professionals.

“We’re preparing people for an environmental career with hands-on experience,” said Tony Wood, Director of NSCS. “The HAZWOPER certification really affords the students an opportunity to get jobs in industries such as petroleum energy, transportation, pipelines, oil refining and expiration production.”

The 40-hour course provided a variety of techniques. Students learned how to divert oil away from sensitive habitats and how to skim and collect oil off the surface of the water. Peat moss was used to simulate oil. The course allowed participants to conduct hands-on exercises such as responding to situations where there may be a leak in a submerged pipeline and learning what to do if a crashed aircraft or ship started leaking fuel.

The exercises demonstrated throughout the course ensured that natural resources could be protected in the event of an oil spill and teaches responders the knowledge they need to be efficient in a crisis. Participants of the course used boats and oil containment booms, which are designed to contain a spill and keep any hazardous materials from entering sensitive beach or wetland areas. Each University boat was equipped with an employee on board to offer guidance during the exercises.

“Living in a coastal community, responding to an oil spill is something we should all be vigilant about,” said Melodie Sanjari, a senior environmental science major. “It’s definitely worth spending my spring break here.”

The course was attended from beyond the coastal community. After a recommendation from her supervisor, a project manager from Colonial Pipeline Company journeyed from North Carolina to attend the course.

“Because it’s hands-on, I feel like we get a better understanding of what’s going on,” said Jennifer Price. “It’s helpful understanding what responses I should be thinking of if we were to have an oil spill.”

NSCS was started by the Corpus Christi Aerial Oil Spill Control Association. They have been providing oil spill training to domestic and foreign industries and government agencies since 1977. Wood himself has taken the NSCS class as the student in 1979.

“The director from the Spill School helped me get my first job out of college,” said Wood. “I moved away for about 30 years, but this is the full circle. This is the best that it can be – working out here on Corpus Christi Bay.”

NSCS is partnered with and is located at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Oil Spill Response course occurs every spring break and during the summer semesters. To learn more about NSCS, visit nscs.tamucc.edu.

*Aerial footage courtesy of Matthew Whitehurst.