On April 20, 2010, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig located approximately 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and sank causing a massive underwater oil gusher. Efforts to cap the well proved difficult.
GEODESY principal scientist, John Cassels, provided U.S. Environmental Protection agency (EPA) with Geographic Information System (GIS) and Data Management support throughout the duration of the Gulf Oil Spill Response at the Incident Command Center (ICC) located in Houma, LA, as well as the Unified Area Command (UAC) located in New Orleans, LA.
Cassels assisted EPA On-Site Coordinators (OCSs) with daily emergency response efforts specifically related to data and mapping activities associated with EPA’s on-going Air Monitoring, Surface Water and Sediment Sampling, and Waste Management programs. In addition, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requested support from EPA to conduct data audits, oceanographic/geo-spatial data processing and data warehousing in EPA’s Scribe database. Oceanographic data was collected daily throughout the Response phase of the incident by numerous NOAA and BP vessels during ongoing NOAA Sub-surface Monitoring Unit (SMU) operations. Sample location coordinates were extracted from daily vessel data deliverables/reports and exported to geo- databases for mapping activities to support daily SMU mission guidance.
Unified Command requested that EPA continue to maintain a Sampling/Monitoring Program Information Matrix developed early on in the incident response effort. Organized by agency, it provided metadata including , program purpose, contact information, links to operating procedures, as well as every analysis conducted on literally hundreds of separate sampling tasks and programs. This became an invaluable reference and is expected to aid future research efforts.
Cassels also provided GIS and oceanographic data assessment support to EPA, NOAA, and the US Coast Guard related to Phase II and III of the Special Monitoring of Applied Response Technologies (SMART) program. This included dispersant monitoring data analysis, summary, and summary graphic preparations with maps charts, photos, weather/sea conditions and efficacy statements to help document the effectiveness of vessel and aerial application of dispersants on oil slicks on the Gulf surface throughout the Gulf Response. SMART data was also maintained/ uploaded to EPA’s Scribe database.
As the response phase began to wind down, Cassels was re-assigned by EPA to the UAC, New Orleans to support a committee of scientists which became known as the Operational Science Advisory Team (OSAT). Cassels assisted OSAT with inclusive analytical data summaries and maps highlighting analytical data results and locations where Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) indicators exceeded specific established EPA benchmarks. OSAT used that information to identify data gaps and recommend additional sampling prior to transition from the response phase to the recovery/damage assessment phase of the incident.