Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT)
Two spill responders scoop oil into a sampling jar at an oiled shoreline.
OR&R responders gather oil samples as part of a SCAT operation along the west shore of the Mississippi River, following a 2008 vessel collision near New Orleans, La. Observations and data from SCAT surveys are critical to the decision-making process for shoreline cleanup at oil spills. (NOAA)

Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT) is a systematic method for surveying an affected shoreline after an oil spill.

The SCAT method originated during the response to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, when responders needed a systematic way to document the spill's impacts on many miles of affected shoreline.

The SCAT approach uses standardized terminology to document shoreline oiling conditions. SCAT is designed to support decision-making for shoreline cleanup. It is flexible in its scale of surveys and in the detail of datasets collected.

SCAT is a regular part of the oil spill response. SCAT surveys begin early in the response to assess initial shoreline conditions, and ideally continue to work in advance of operational cleanup.

Surveys continue during the response to verify shoreline oiling, cleanup effectiveness, and eventually, to conduct final evaluations of shorelines to ensure they meet cleanup endpoints.

The SCAT process includes eight basic steps:

  1. Conduct reconnaissance survey(s).
  2. Segment the shoreline.
  3. Assign teams and conduct SCAT surveys.
  4. Develop cleanup guidelines and endpoints.
  5. Submit survey reports and shoreline oiling sketches to the ICS Planning Section.
  6. Monitor effectiveness of cleanup.
  7. Conduct post-cleanup inspections.
  8. Conduct final evaluation of cleanup activities.

SCAT Team

SCAT teams include people trained in the techniques, procedures, and terminology of shoreline assessment. Teams should include people with knowledge and experience in oil and oil cleanup techniques, geomorphology, ecology, and in some cases, archeology. Members of a SCAT team may include federal representatives (usually from the NOAA Scientific Support Team or U.S. Coast Guard), state representatives, a representative of the responsible party, and possibly the landowner or other stakeholders. A SCAT coordinator directs the activities of the SCAT teams from the command post and coordinates with people working on other aspects of the response.

SCAT teams use a collaborative, consensus-building approach to collect data. SCAT team members also prepare field maps and forms detailing the area surveyed and make specific cleanup recommendations designed to meet cleanup goals and objectives. Later, SCAT teams verify cleanup effectiveness, modifying guidelines as needed if conditions change. Although they coordinate with division supervisors in the area, they do not direct cleanup workers.

SCAT Team Responsibilities

SCAT teams collect the data needed to develop a shoreline cleanup plan that maximizes the recovery of oiled habitats and resources, while minimizing the risk of injury from cleanup efforts. The team's responsibilities include the following:

  • evaluating oil type and condition.
  • factoring in shoreline types and coastal processes to oil behavior and cleanup methods.
  • identifying environmentally and culturally sensitive resources.
  • determining need for cleanup.
  • recommending cleanup methods and endpoints.
  • placing constraints on cleanup if necessary, due to ecological, economic, or cultural concerns.

Throughout the SCAT work, the team must give consideration to:

  • potential for human exposure, by direct contact or by eating contaminated seafood.
  • extent and duration of environmental impacts if the oil is not removed.
  • natural removal rates.
  • potential for remobilized oil to affect other sensitive resources.
  • likelihood that cleanup may cause greater harm than the oil alone.

More Information about SCAT

Shoreline Assessment Manual: This manual outlines methods for conducting shoreline assessment and using the results to make cleanup decisions at oil spills.

Shoreline Assessment Job Aid: This job aid was developed for use in the field and to supplement the manual, providing a visual guide to many of the terms used and conditions found during shoreline assessments.

Shoreline Assessment Forms: These are standard forms you can download, print out, and then use to record your observations during a shoreline survey following an oil spill. Different forms have been developed for different habitats and types of oiling (e.g., coastal, river, wetland, tarball oiling, etc.).
 

Questions: Contact us with your questions, comments, or suggestions for SCAT.