The M/V New Carissa grounded, then broke apart off of the coast of Oregon in 1999. (NOAA)

Significant Incidents

For significant spills, OR&R is responsible for providing scientific support to the Federal On-Scene Coordinator overseeing the response. Find news and information for notable incidents in which OR&R has been involved, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. 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, or keep an eye on our Media page for important spill-related news and updates from OR&R.

In the early morning of December 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. The vessel was carrying approximately 183,000 barrels of No. 6 Fuel Oil (80%) and cutter stock (20%). The master of the vessel requested permission to dump cargo in an effort to control draft and re-float the vessel.

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. Prior to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it was the largest single oil spill in U.S. coastal waters.

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. The two hurricanes littered the coast with tens of thousands of drums, storage tanks, and other containers holding oil, chemicals, and other hazardous materials.

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.


IncidentNews is a website offering news, photos, and response information about oil spills and other incidents in which OR&R has provided scientific support.

Oil and Hazardous Materials Response Reports

Here are reports describing oil and chemical spill responses in which OR&R participated from October 1992 through September 1999.

Recent Emergency Spill Responses

Get a feel for OR&R's emergency response work in this sampling of recent spill responses we have supported, from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to hurricanes and pipeline leaks.