Planes flying oil spill clean-up mission from Stennis Airport - - The News for South Mississippi

Planes flying oil spill clean-up mission from Stennis International Airport


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Stennis International Airport in Hancock County is playing an important role in the ongoing clean-up of the oil spill in the gulf.

Marine Spill Response Corporation is using large planes to drop thousands of gallons of oil dispersant chemicals onto the oil slick.

MSRC is a non-profit group, funded by the big oil companies, which responds to oil spills and accidents. Its staging area for the eastern Gulf of Mexico is Stennis Airport.

This large oil spill has prompted the largest clean-up response in the company's 20 year history.

"Get ready to start the pump," shouts an operations worker to the crew manning the pump equipment.

Crews begin loading a C-130A with five thousand gallons of oil dispersant.  Marine Spill Response Corporation is attacking the giant oil slick from the air.

Donald Toenshoff, Jr. is the executive vice president for the company.

"We are mobilizing a massive response, given the circumstances at hand. And we're bringing in dispersants from as far away as Seattle, Washington and up in the Baltimore, Maryland area," he explained.

The large planes fly 35 minutes south into the gulf, then start dispersing the clean-up chemical through large nozzles, much like a crop duster.

"And will fly down and basically lay down a layer at 75 feet above the water and 150 miles an hour, a cleaning gel. And this cleaning agent will basically break up the oil slick, not unlike the soap you use when you wash dishes at home,"  says Toenshoff.

That chemical dispersant is delivered to the site in large plastic barrels. BP has contacted the manufacturer about increasing supplies.

"And they'll be ramping up production, recognizing that we may be needing dispersants for some time into the future.  This is the largest response that we as a company have worked on. We have been active for the past 20 years and responded to over 500 spills," said Toenshoff.

Stennis International is considered an ideal location for these marine spill responders.  It's close to the Gulf of Mexico, has the transportation support of nearby I-10, and has the available jet fuel to keep these planes in the air.

"MSRC is a base customer here at Stennis International Airport. They support the field with a single aircraft on a day to day basis. That aircraft can go out, make immediate response, then they bring in the larger aircraft out of Arizona, as in this situation," said airport director, Bill Cotter.

How long will this airlift clean-up last?

"On behalf of the customer, we'll be here until the job is done," said Toenshoff.

The marine spill responders are flying nine flights a day from Stennis to the oil slick. They're using two   C-130 airplanes, along with a King Air that's also used as the "spotter" plane.

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