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Significant Incidents

For significant spills, OR&R is responsible for providing scientific support to the federal on-scene coordinator overseeing the response. Under the National Contingency Plan and the National Response Plan, OR&R works with the U.S. Coast Guard, which is the FOSC for marine spills while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assumes this responsibility for inland spills. OR&R has responded to thousands of spills over the years. In addition to emergency response to incidents, OR&R assesses damage to and restores plants, animals, and environments after a marine or coastal spill. Check out for a comprehensive list of spills and other incidents which OR&R responds to.

In the early morning of Dec. 15, 1976, the Liberian tanker Argo Merchant went aground on Fishing Rip (Nantucket Shoals), 29 nautical miles southeast of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts in high winds and ten foot seas.

On November 26, 2004, the single-hulled tanker Athos I unknowingly struck a large anchor submerged in the Delaware River while preparing to dock at a refinery just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The impact punctured the tanker's hull, and it began leaking more than 263,000 gallons of heavy oil into the tidal waters of this busy East Coast shipping route.

On Nov. 7, 2007, the container ship Cosco Busan struck the Bay Bridge in San Francisco Bay, California in heavy fog, resulting in a 100-foot gash in the hull of the vessel and release of 58,000 gallons of fuel oil into the bay. The spill precipitated widespread beach closures, recreational and commercial fishery closures, and cancellation of many activities associated with use of Bay waters.

OR&R oceanographers modeled how wind, waves, tides, and weather would carry the ship's fuel oil across San Francisco Bay.

On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil well drilling platform tragically killed 11 workers, and started the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history, releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA was on the scene from the earliest moments of the crisis, bringing more than 25 years of experience protecting and restoring our coasts from oil spills.

On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef in Alaska's Prince William Sound, rupturing its hull and spilling nearly 11 million gallons of Prudhoe Bay crude oil into a remote, scenic, and biologically productive body of water.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on August 29, 2005, bringing winds of 140 miles per hour and storm waters that flooded more than 80 percent of New Orleans. Tragically, more than 1,800 people lost their lives and damages across the Gulf Coast topped $108 billion. A few weeks later, Hurricane Rita battered the area on September 24, extending the damage from eastern Texas to western Florida.

On May 19, 2015, NOAA was notified of a 24-inch pipeline rupture that occurred earlier in the day near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, California. Of the approximately 100,000 gallons of crude oil released, a reported 21,000 gallons flowed into the Pacific Ocean.

On March 22, 2014, the bulk carrier M/V Summer Wind collided with the oil tank-barge Kirby 27706. The incident occurred in Galveston Bay near Texas City, Texas, and resulted in the barge spilling approximately 168,000 gallons of intermediate fuel oil. During the spill response, NOAA provided scientific support to the U.S.