On November 26, 2004, the tanker Athos I struck several submerged objects, resulting in the release of an estimated 264,000 gallons of Bachaquero Venezuelan crude oil into the Delaware River near West Deptford, New Jersey. The magnitude of the potential impacts from this release prompted the Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) to stand up an incident Command System (ICS) to manage response activities.

As part of this Incident Command structure, the Planning Section implemented an Environmental Unit (EU). The EU Leader is responsible for assessing the environmental conditions or impacts related to an incident and develop strategies to minimize those impacts. The NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator (SSC) was requested by the Federal On-Scene Coordinator to fill the position of EU Leader.

The response lasted almost one year. Throughout the event the EU was an essential component of the response management structure, capable of building up or scaling down as the workload demanded. Multiple federal, state, and local government personnel, as well as contractors staffed the EU and tackled the complex and often first-time issues as they were presented. Three factors critical to the successful response, and in which the EU played key rolls were: 1) change and adaptation in organizational structure during the response, 2) scientific and technological support for Decision Makers, and 3) effective use of information management tools that demonstrate organizational competence. This paper highlights those three factor, describes the scientific and technological issues the EU dealt with, and how the EU helped to achieve organizational success.

The information in this paper reflects the views of the authors, and does not necessarily reflect the official positions or policies of NOAA or the Department of Commerce.

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