The Maine oil-booms: CYA in action?

A few days ago, we covered the stunning revelation that the Coast Guard admiral in charge of dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill seemed never to have heard of the miles of containment boom sitting unused in Maine. ABC’s Jake Tapper broke that story and followed up with the Coast Guard, who told him the boom hadn’t met quality standards.

Eh… Not so fast. Tapper, again:

Over the weekend, Capt. Ron LaBrec from Coast Guard Public Affairs told me that according to a BP quality control inspector the PackGen boom did not pass an initial quality control test.

“Boom is subjected to great wear and tear when placed in the water and must be frequently tended,” LaBrec told me. “In order to retain its effectiveness boom must be of high quality. Once Packgen’s boom passes inspection, the company can be considered as a source for supplying boom.”

LaBrec noted that in the meantime, “suitable boom is being identified and obtained quickly” with 459,000 feet of boom stored in the region in addition to the 2.24 million feet deployed.

So what was wrong with the PackGen boom?

“There were concerns with material and end connectors,” LaBrec said. “BP has inspectors who visit facilities and regularly test boom. In addition to testing boom from new suppliers, boom from existing manufacturers is also tested/inspected. The Coast Guard also inspects boom that we purchase from suppliers. It is important because poorly designed boom may not work as intended.”

[Packgen President] Lapoint said the boom “not only meets” standards, “it exceeds it.”

“The only issue was the end connectors,” Lapoint said. So, he said, “we changed it to the universal connector, so there shouldn’t be any problems at all.”

Packgen further claims their boom exceeds standards by a factor of two, while Tapper quotes the relevant ASTM standards.

So, I ask again: What’s the hold up? Are the Coast Guard and BP using some standard other than ASTM (which would be odd)? If the switch to a universal connector was the only problem, why aren’t these booms on the way to the Gulf? Are there any other problems not mentioned?

Or are Washington and BP blowing smoke to cover for an initial and inexcusable lackadaisical response to the biggest environmental catastrophe in US history?

I don’t suspect we’ve heard the last of the Maine boom, by any means.

(via Jimmiebjr on Twitter)

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