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How Containment Booms Work

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Containment booms located downstream of the rail bridge, facing east, April 3,2015

Containment booms are commonly used to contain and control spills on water. They are often among the first equipment to be mobilized to site, during an emergency spill response. The type of oil that spilled near Gogama is lighter than water, so it primarily stays on the surface of the water.  Containment booms float on the surface of the water and are placed in strategic locations based on the flow of the river. The booms act as barriers, trapping any oil moving downstream. When oil collects at the upstream side of the boom, it can be collected with absorbent pads, skimmers, and vacuums. 

The containment booms are designed to have the following features:

  • A chamber filled with air or buoyant material that serves the dual purpose of keeping the oil boom afloat and preventing oil from splashing over;

  • A sub-surface skirt that prevents oil from escaping under the boom; and

  • A chain, wire, or rope that provides strength, keeps the boom taut, and maintains tension to keep the boom upright in the water.

Due to the time of year and frozen conditions, the containment booms at the Gogama site were installed by cutting a slot in the ice on the river, running from shore to shore, and placing the boom on the surface of the water. The booms were secured at both banks of the river.  

After the spring melt, the boom placement strategy was reassessed, and booms were reconfigured to ensure that they continued to contain and collect oil in the most effective way possible.

Since the spring melt, containment booms remained on the Makami River to facilitate collection of emulsified product and sheen. These booms were monitored regularly throughout the site work. Accumulations of sheen or oiled debris were removed from the containment booms on a daily basis.  The booms were removed at the end of October 2015, after a thorough assessment of shoreline and river conditions showed that there were no measurable accumulations of oil on the surface of the water or shorelines. The assessment was completed by CN and a representative of Gogama and Mattagami First Nation.