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ER-Charleston & Point Source Pollution

Tuesday, November 15, 2022  by qrelihan

    On August 18, 2022, MER was hired by the owner of Rio Chico a Mexican restaurant in Charleston County SC.  MER was brought in by Rio Chico after a broken kitchen line caused a mixture of grease and cooking oil to end up in a nearby pond.  This broken kitchen line was made worse by recent storms that led to excess water in storm drains.  As you can imagine between the broken kitchen line and excess water in storm drains it created the perfect storm for grease to end up in a nearby pond. 

    In this instance, the grease that ended up in the nearby pond is the perfect example of point source pollution.  This is because there was a traceable trail of grease in the parking lot of Rio Chico that connected it to the storm drains that emptied out into the nearby pond (WCSC News, Zuhowski 2022).  The state department of health and environmental control served Rio Chico a notice of violation (NOV) to inform the restaurant that they had 7 days to remove the grease from the pond and if they did not comply, then they would receive a summons.  Therefore, Rio Chico needed an environmental response and remediation crew that could get the job done in 7 days or less so that they could avoid receiving a summons (WCSC News, Zuhowski 2022).

    Rio Chico chose to hire MER for the job and trusted that they would get the grease removed correctly and quickly.  MER not only met their standards, but they exceeded them by providing the necessary labor and equipment that was needed to complete the job.  MER was able to finish the job within the 7-day time frame that the state gave Rio Chico, so no summons was served.  MER’s crew also worked with the Carolina Wildlife Rehab Center by alerting them whenever they came across oil covered or injured wildlife. 

    The crew that was tasked with cleaning the pond, included Supervisor John Todd, Kenneth "Blaise" Murray as the Operator, Germaine Grant & Benjamin Goss as the Technicians on the scene (pictured left to right in image below). To remove grease and cooking oil from the pond, the crew had to vacuum out and line jet the 3 storm water drains that lead to the pond.  Due to vegetation growing around the pond some of the areas where the cooking oil and grease had ended up were difficult to reach and required crews to use a john boat.  Although the goal was to remove the grease from the pond quickly so that Rio Chico would not receive a summons from the state, the prompt removal of the grease and cooking oil is important for the health of surrounding flora & fauna as well.

    The environmental impact of a release of cooking oil into a pond can be grave for the wildlife if not responded to quickly.  For instance, the Carolina Wildlife Rehab Center reported that even with MER’s quick response the pond still suffered a significant loss of wildlife.  This is because even a small amount of oil will spread quickly in a body of water and the most urgent of responses will still result in wildlife loss. By working in conjunction with the Carolina Wildlife Rehab Center, MER was able to draw attention to injured wildlife faster than the center would have been able to on their own.  Even though there was wildlife loss, the quick response and high quality of work performed by MER’s response crew kept that loss to a minimum. 

    The city of Charleston reports that incidents like the one with Rio Chico happens about 10-12 times a year, and most of the time the culprit cannot be pinpointed which can delay the clean-up process (WCSC News, Zuhowski 2022).  When cooking oil, grease or other pollutants enter a body of water as a non-point source pollution then the clean up process may be delayed or take longer as there is no one who can be held responsible for said clean up.  Since it was clear that the grease was coming from the broken kitchen line at Rio Chico, the environmental impact on the retention pond was far less than it would be if it was non-point source pollution.  This is because quick action was taken by the state, Rio Chico and MER’s crew to address and clean up the release of cooking oil.


   MER Response Crew                         Retention Pond Pollution                         John Boat

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North Carolina Coastal Federation Feature

Monday, August 1, 2022  by qrelihan

    The North Carolina Coastal Federation (Federation) is a non-profit organization that has been working with coastal communities in North Carolina since 1982 to protect and restore the coast.  Through a variety of goals that focus on marine debris removals, water quality, living shorelines, sound coastal management and oyster reef restoration, the Federation also provides opportunities for members of the community to be trained and educated on ways they can preserve the coast (NCCF 2022). 

    Among those efforts include working with Moran Environmental Recovery (MER) & Mainstream Commercial Divers Inc (MCDI) to remove two large, abandoned shrimp trawlers from Holden Beach in 2021.  This job is a part of a larger project to remove about 80 vessels from the coast of North Carolina.  The Brunswick County sheriff’s department approached the Federation to remove two vessels that have been left to rot in the Intracoastal Waterway for years.  The rotting boats were 65 ft in length and were disintegrating into the water causing problems for the surrounding environment (WECT News 2021).  MER & MCDI were able to remove the two boats in just about a week’s time, sending the recovered debris to the appropriate disposal facility.

    Since the two vessels had been rotting off the coast of Holden Beach for so long many members of the community had grown to recognize the boats as part of the coastline.  The two vessels left in the waterway caused severe impacts to the surrounding environment. For instance, pieces of the boats had broken off and floated down the coast, like the fuel tank.  The fuel tanks have the potential of leaking chemicals into the ocean that could damage the environment and those living there (NOAA 2022). In addition,the physical pieces of the rotting vessels will disrupt the habitats of marine life, in some cases it may completely destroy a habitat.  There is also a risk to other boaters should the debris sink under the surface and no longer be visible to other boaters out at sea. 

    To prevent habitat disruption, destruction, and unnecessary risks to the public the Federation hired MER & MCDI due to their dedication to excellence.  One of the Federation's coastal scientist said “one of the reasons we hired Moran Environmental Recovery and Mainstream Divers is they have a very good environmental track record “(WECT News 2021). As a client we support the work that the Federation does and whenever we get the opportunity to partner with them on a project, we are more than happy to do so.  Both MER & MCDI were proud to be part of the Federation's efforts to remove over 80 abandoned vessels from North Carolina’s coastline. 

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34 Years Since Piper Alpha Disaster

Wednesday, July 6, 2022  by qrelihan

     If this is the first time you have heard the name Piper Alpha, then you are not alone because I only learned of the namesakes’ disaster today, on its 34th anniversary.  I was doing my daily perusal of LinkedIn when I came across a post that caught my attention by claiming there was an offshore accident that was deadlier and more devastating than Deepwater Horizon.  This particular post introduced me to the Piper Alpha disaster which occurred off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland in 1988  claiming the lives of 167 men and inspiring the implementation of new safety policies (https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6950337246914879488/).

    The Piper Alpha was an offshore oil rig that started out specializing in oil production and due to its success with that it added gas conversion to its operations about 8 years later (STV News 2022).  Before gas conversion was introduced to the Piper Alpha the original layout placed high risk operations far from staff areas as a safety precaution. To accommodate gas conversion some physical alterations were made to the rig which meant that high risk operations ended up being closer together and as a result closer to staff areas.  For example, the area where gas compression took place was located next to the control room, which proved to be very deadly (STV News 2022).  However, as is the case for most disasters of this magnitude it is never just one thing that causes it but rather it is the result of a perfect storm of mishaps, misinformation, and miscommunication.

    Just before 10pm on July 6, 1988, there was a shift change and unfortunately it was not communicated to the personnel coming in that maintenance was being done on one of the major pipes and it was not to be used.  This led to a condensate leak which triggered the first explosion, which was then followed by two subsequent explosions (Fiona Macleod CEng FIChemE and Stephen Richardson 2018).   As you can imagine the explosions created fires and flames that took days to put out before the rig eventually crumbled, sinking to the bottom of the ocean.  Despite it being the deadliest offshore disaster, those who lost their lives did not do so in vain because this accident and the following investigating spurred the creation of health and safety policies in the UK.  Among those policies were those addressing permits, maintenance, and complacency all of which are still in place today and have no doubt saved countless lives since.

    My only request is that if you have not heard of the Piper Alpha disaster prior to today, take some time to google it and read about it.  My guess is that you will pick up on some of the same themes that I did because it is impossible to ignore the role that health and safety played in this disaster.  In fact, it may make you take a step back and understand the importance of all the training we do and why we need to hold so many licenses & permits to perform jobs.  I linked the sources that I used to the bottom of the page if you would like to do some further reading on the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster. 






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Final Earth Day Blog

Tuesday, May 3, 2022  by qrelihan

    Between MER and other Moran Companies we had 15 groups that participated in clean-up efforts in 15 different locations across the United States.  Our employees join the ranks of more than 1 billion people in over 192 countries across the globe that participated in Earth Day clean-ups.

    The theme of Earth Day 2022 was “Invest in Our Planet”, with the goal of encouraging participants to invest their time, money, and votes in favor of the environment.  By going out and picking up trash in local communities, MER employees invested their time to make the environment cleaner.  However, our efforts did not start on Earth Day, nor did it stop after Earth Day because MER has spent the last year investing in the expansion of our Sustainability Program.

    For example, in the past year the Sustainability Program has launched the Sustainability Blog to highlight jobs and projects such as the Golden Ray that go above and beyond the call of duty to protect and preserve the environment. It is also home to the Earth Day blog series which has initiated more conversations about our company’s environmental impact and what can be done on either a large or small scale to reduce our impact. Investing in our planet does not need to be extreme to be effective in reducing your individual or community’s impact on the environment.

    The map below is a snapshot of all the Earth Day events that took place this year and the corresponding legend shows the different categories of events.  This just goes to show that investing in our planet can take on many forms and is not one size fits all.  Therefore, I encourage all of you to continue to invest in the planet throughout the year whether that means picking up trash in your neighborhood or attending environmental webinars, no investment is too small.

Earth Day 2022 (https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2022/) 

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Earth Day Series- Randolph Recap

Monday, April 25, 2022  by qrelihan

Since MER is taking the entire month of April to celebrate Earth Day, I will give a full recap of all clean-ups on then blog next week.  However, this week I wanted to take some time to share with you my experience at the Randolph office’s clean-up last Wednesday.  We had more than 15 employees, grab trash bags, a pair of gloves and walk over to the river across the street to pick up some trash.  While I was out there, I made sure to note the type of trash I was coming across the most frequently and what trash items I was surprised to find.  In the list below you will find the most common trash items that my coworkers and I picked up, as well as some of the strangest items. 

Common Trash Items:

  • Cigarettes
  • Disposable face masks
  • Plastic bags
  • Food containers
  • Bottle caps

Uncommon Trash Items:

  • Articles of clothing
  • Deflated basketball

In addition to picking up those trash items, there was also some trash that we could not get to.  Unfortunately, there was some litter in the river and in the pond which was too deep to wade into without proper boots, and equipment.  Even though there we could not pick up all the trash we knew that we left that area better than we found it and that is all we can ask for.  This was our third year going to this spot to remove trash and we intend to do so for the foreseeable future. 

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