Oil spill in San Francisco Bay

October 30, 2009 11:05:29 PM PDT
The Bay Area dodged an environmental disaster Friday, after a tanker ship spilled thick oil into the bay.

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The Panamanian ship, the Dubai Star, was anchored 2.5 miles south of the Bay Bridge, taking on bunker fuel from a barge when the fuel line ruptured. The spill left almost a two mile long sheen on the bay, but it is still unclear how much of the oil is still in the bay.

At 6:48 a.m., the Coast Guard responded to an oil spill at Anchorage 9, southwest of the Port of Oakland. The Coast Guard found a tanker ship spilling oil over the edge, leaving a 30 foot stain on its side. The investigation now centers on whether that oil transfer system ruptured or if something caused it to overflow.

"There are a number of safeguards in place but in this particular case those safeguards were not sufficient," U.S. Coast Guard Captain Paul Gugg said.

The oil was not coming from the hull of the ship which is what happened two years ago with the Cosco Busan, which spilled 53,000 gallons of oil.

The changes in the response effort between Cosco Busan and Friday's Dubai Star spills have been significant. Within minutes of Friday's spill, the Coast Guard and local oil spill recovery agencies were on site. There is also an open line of communication between investigators, responders and city officials.

"Depending on what the oil does in the next hour or two, three hours we are ready to deploy the resources that we have and contribute to the response in anyway we need to," Office of Emergency Management spokesperson Rob Dudgeon said.

Throughout the day, people have been monitoring East Bay parks and beaches for signs of the oil spill. Clear skies and light winds have aided crews in tracking and containing the spill.

Although there were few signs of the spill, that did not prevent crews from the Port of Oakland and the East Bay regional parks from moving at first warning.

Over 1,100 feet of protective boom was placed to contain the oil and seven boats and ships were deployed. A Coast Guard helicopter monitored the spill from the air and homeowners kept a watchful eye on the shoreline near their homes.

"We have a bird sanctuary right over here and get all kinds of birds in this area; it's a shame to lose them," Alameda resident Richard Heimans said.

Environmental groups have been quick to deplore bunker fuel following Friday.

"It is 1,000 times dirtier than diesel fuel that is used on trucks that are on the roads and it is unbelievably harmful to both human health and marine life when it is spilled like this," Marcie Keever of Friends of the Earth said.

Crews will continue to monitor the spill and the shoreline.

Residents encouraged to take extra precautions

The San Francisco Department of Environment and Department of Public Health have issued the following precuationary recommendations to the public:

  • Avoid Bay water contact and beaches until further notice.
  • Do not swim in the Bay.
  • For Treasure Island Marina, slipholders are asked to keep their vessels in the marina over the weekend.
  • Fishing around Treasure Island, Yerba Buena Island and from the east side of San Francisco Pier 39 to Candlestick Point is not advisable.
  • If members of the public see oiled wildlife, they should contact the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926 or www.owcn.org.

No fishing or shellfish harvesting allowed

Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), has suspended fishing and shellfish harvesting in the areas affected by the oil. The suspension will remain in effect at least until state health officials have determined that fishing can be reopened.

Closure areas include the Alameda County shoreline between the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the San Mateo Bridge. In addition, OEHHA is advising that fishers avoid fishing in areas where there is a visible sheen.

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