Officials warn not to eat seafood from Pillar Point

A major concern has been contamination to a nearby abalone farm, shown here, surrouned by orange booms to keep the diesel fuel from reaching the underwater cages containing the abalone. The abalone is sold commercially and off a boat at Pillar Point on weekends. The owner has not been able to determine yet whether the abalone has been contaminated. (Photo courtesy of ABC7 reporter David Louie)

May 27, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A diesel spill in the waters of Pillar Point is threatening fish and wildlife, and there's a warning out to not eat the fish or shellfish there. The fuel began leaking on Thursday from a houseboat, "The Gypsy," that sank in the harbor six weeks ago.

A salvage crew under contract to the Coast Guard moved in quickly to prevent the fuel slick from spreading and to plug the leaks.

"We are really good at getting off all the fuels and the oils and any contaminants, so business as usual," Maria Nunn from Parker Diving Service said.

Two types of booms were deployed -- yellow ones to contain the leaking fuel and white ones designed to absorb the petroleum but not water.

Divers focused on finding and plugging leaks on the 52-foot sunken houseboat. The boat's owner watched from an aluminum boat nearby. The water inside the break wall is about 16 feet deep.

"The bottom of the water here is mud and clay so it's stuck down there pretty good. They are attempting to put air bags below the hull of the vessel and raising it that way," U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Lucas Martin said.

There was no visible sheen from the fuel and barely a trace of odor as ABC7 circled the scene. The Coast Guard said the light chop, light winds and sunshine helped the fuel to dissipate.

A few yards away sits one of only five West Coast abalone farms and booms were set out to protect it.

"The contamination from the diesel would be on the surface of the water. It floats. What we're doing is making sure it doesn't come in contact with the abalone farm," Fish and Game Warden Scott Murtha said.

By late Friday afternoon, the salvage boat was towing the house boat toward shore, most of it still submerged.

Bird watchers Patty and Ron Fulks were deeply worried about an environmental disaster.

The Coast Guard can't pin down a figure as to how much this clean-up and salvage operation will cost. The tab will be picked up by a federal oil spill trust fund, because of the environmental threat it posed.


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