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2004 Athos I Oil Spill on the Delaware River

Riverbank with trail and vegetation.
Un-restored riverbank with weeds and cement.
Wooden frame structure partially submerged in the water by the river's edge.
Shoreline of creek with stabilizing structures.
Creek with trees in the foreground.
Dam in a creek.
Wetland with trees in background.
Salem Nuclear Plant at the edge of the river.
Five men posing in on the river's edge.
An island in the river with boom around it.
Oiled boom collected by the edge of the river.
Oil on rocks at the edge of the river.
Oil on mudflats at the edge of the river.
Oiled freighter docked in the river.
Diver covered in oil.
Workers clean oil from the  beach on an island in the river.
Workers cleaning the riverbank.
Worker spray-cleaning oily rocks.
Workers using pom-poms to absorb floating oil by the river’s edge.
The cleanup operation
Sheen on river.
Ship listing in middle of river.
Riverbank with trail and vegetation.
Lardner’s Point in 2014

Located in Philadelphia, Lardner's Point Park, shown in 2014, now features a living shoreline, a river overlook, and connections to a trail system.

Credit: (NOAA)
Un-restored riverbank with weeds and cement.
Lardner’s Point in 2008

Lardner's Point, a former ferry terminal on the Delaware River which fell into disrepair, was one of 10 restoration sites chosen after the Athos oil spill. In 2008, prior to restoration work, hard shoreline structures and weeds dominate the waterfront.

Credit: NOAA
Wooden frame structure partially submerged in the water by the river's edge.
Lardner’s Point Geese Exclusion Structures

To protect the recently restored plants now growing at the edge of the Delaware River in Lardner's Point Park, geese exclusion structures made of wood and twine are positioned over newly planted aquatic vegetation.

Credit: NOAA
Shoreline of creek with stabilizing structures.
Darby Creek Habitat in 2014

Restoration of Darby Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River, included removing a dam and rerouting the channel to improve access for migratory fish. Shown in 2014 is the restored shoreline habitat with stabilizing structures.

Credit: NOAA
Creek with trees in the foreground.
Darby Creek Dam Kent Park in 2014

As part of the restoration following the Athos oil spill, a dam was removed from Darby Creek to improve creek health and provide access for migratory fish.

Credit: NOAA
Dam in a creek.
Darby Creek Dam at Kent Park in 2008

Darby Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River, was affected by the Athos oil spill. One of 10 restoration sites resulting from the oil spill, Darby Creek had three small dams removed to improve access for migratory fish. Shown in 2008, this rock dam was obstructing the flow of Darby Creek and was removed.

Credit: NOAA
Wetland with trees in background.
Blackbird Reserve Wildlife Area

Blackbird Reserve Wildlife Area is one of 10 sites chosen to undergo restoration to make up for the oil spill's environmental impacts. Farmland was converted to shallow wetland, providing resting and foraging areas for migratory geese. More than 11,500 birds, including geese, were killed as a result of the oil spill.

Credit: NOAA
Salem Nuclear Plant at the edge of the river.
Oil threatens nuclear power plant operations

The Salem Nuclear Power Plant is a two-unit pressurized water reactor nuclear power station located in New Jersey. Following the spill, it was shut down for over a week out of precaution, in order to keep the oil submerged in the river from clogging its critical water intake system.

Credit: NOAA
Five men posing in on the river's edge.
Inspection of the affected site

From left to right: N.J. Deputy Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell, NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator Ed Levine, U.S. Senator (NJ) Frank Lautenberg, U.S. Senator (NJ) Jon Corzine, USCG Capt. Jonathan Sarubbi. This photo was taken during an inspection tour of the impacted sites along the Delaware River.

Credit: U.S. Coast Guard
An island in the river with boom around it.
Protecting historic resources

Fort Delaware, in Delaware City, Delaware, is a fort dating back to 1859 that was originally built to protect the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia. Here, Pea Patch Island is boomed to protect the site from the Athos oil spill. This takes tens of thousands of feet of boom to protect. The marshland around the fort is a major bird rookery as well.

Credit: NOAA
Oiled boom collected by the edge of the river.
Miles of boom used to protect the shore

Boom is gathered after use near the river's edge.

Credit: NOAA
Oil on rocks at the edge of the river.
Oil on the riverbanks

Hundreds of miles of shoreline in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware had to be inspected and the oiled areas cleaned up.

Credit: NOAA
Oil on mudflats at the edge of the river.
Oil exposed at low tide

In the tidal waters of the Delaware, a mudflat is exposed at low tide with thick black oil covering its surface. Spilled oil was found on 280 miles of shoreline.

Credit: NOAA
Oiled freighter docked in the river.
Oil affects other ships

An oiled freighter is docked in the busy Philadelphia Port Authority following the spill. The city skyline is visible in the background. All vessel movement was halted for about a week until the object the Athos hit was found. This caused severe economic impact to the area. A NOAA Navigation Response Team located the objects.

Credit: NOAA
Diver covered in oil.
Cleanup can be messy

Commercial diver covered in oil after a bottom survey. Locating, tracking, and removing the submerged oil required development of new equipment and tactics. In follow-up amendments to the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), Congress directed the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA to conduct research and development to improve responses to submerged oils.

Credit: U.S. Coast Guard
Workers clean oil from the  beach on an island in the river.
Islands affected by the spill

Workers clean up the beach on Little Tinicum Island in the Delaware River three days after the spill. Oil is also stranded on the mudflat surrounding the island. This island is part of the William Penn State Forest.

Credit: NOAA
Workers cleaning the riverbank.
Cleaning up the oil

Workers power-wash the rocky edge of the river. Spilled oil washed up on 280 miles of shoreline, which included marshes, beaches, and mudflats. Here, workers use high-pressure washing to remove oil adhered to riprap along the Delaware River banks. The oil, which was flushed onto the water, is contained within booms and sorbent material where it can be recovered.

Credit: NOAA
Worker spray-cleaning oily rocks.
Multiple cleanup methods

A worker in protective gear power-washes the oily rocks while boom in background collects oil five months after the spill occurred.

Credit: NOAA
Workers using pom-poms to absorb floating oil by the river’s edge.
Recovering spilled oil

Workers use pom-poms to absorb floating oil by the river’s edge.

Credit: NOAA
The cleanup operation
The cleanup operation

The cleanup operation continues on the Delaware three days after the spill. The sheen is visible across the river, as the skimmer attempts to recover oil from the middle. Recovery captured 3,967 gallons of oil; 60,829 gallons of oily water mixture; and 6,699 tons of oily contaminated debris. The response cleanup activities continued on for one year. There was a cease-work period for about two months during the winter when the Delaware River was frozen.

Credit: NOAA
Sheen on river.
Sheen visible on the river

Three days after the spill, sheen is visible on the river, 10 miles north of the spill release location.

Credit: NOAA
Ship listing in middle of river.
Crude oil spilled into the Delaware

The tank vessel Athos listing approximately 7 degrees to port, the day after its hull was punctured and over 260,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Delaware River.

Credit: NOAA
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