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Posted at 7:50 AM ET, 05/10/2010

Md. spill may offer lessons for the Gulf

By Washington Post editors

A decade after 140,000 gallons of oil leaked into a Patuxent River tributary and became Maryland's worst spill, the water doesn't show a hint of the environmental devastation The Baltimore Sun reports.

But wedge a stick into the bottom of Swanson Creek and it comes up slimed with oil.

Oil from that April 2000 spill fouled 20 miles of shoreline, devastated water-dependent businesses and killed hundreds of turtles, fish, muskrats and other wildlife. Those who helped clean up acknowledge that the process was chaotic, and that remnants of the slick remain buried in the Southern Maryland river bottom.

"Back then, we all had eyes bugging out of our heads because we didn't know what to do," said Jonathan McKnight, associate director of wildlife for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, who helped coordinate the cleanup. "We learned it's the nature of a large spill that there will be human error, poor equipment, nonperforming contractors, a lack of hotel rooms and bad food, and that all things go wrong when we try and mobilize all these people."

But he and others also say the area has recovered nicely and that the state is better prepared for the next catastrophe. Perhaps, they say, their hard lessons could even inform those now battling the huge spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

By Washington Post editors  | May 10, 2010; 7:50 AM ET
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