Crews clean up diesel spill at UC Berkeley

December 11, 2011 6:31:38 PM PST
Emergency crews are trying to contain a huge diesel spill at UC Berkeley that is posting a threat to the environment. Some diesel has already leaked into the Berkeley Marina.

Some absorbent booms have already been set up at the Berkeley Marina where Strawberry Creek meets the San Francisco Bay. The diesel is caked onto some of the absorbent materials after an eight mile journey downstream from the campus of UC Berkeley.

"The agencies are telling us that it was a very small fraction that made its way into the bay, unfortunately," said Mark Freiberg with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

The fuel spill was first noticed at 7 p.m. Saturday by a UC campus police officer who came across a foul smell along Strawberry Creek. Goopy diesel was seeping through the water.

The basement of Stanley Hall on campus was the source of the spill.

"We know that we had some 1,700 gallons of diesel fuel spill within the building," said Freiberg, "and a smaller amount, small fraction of that was released to the creek."

Crews quickly started siphoning the fuel from the basement with large pumping trucks.

The emergency was caused by some sort of malfunction with a tank feeding fuel to the emergency generator basement. The diesel then made it out of Stanley Hall due to the pumps in the basement that remove natural water that often collects.

About 100 students were immediately evacuated from the building. A few students looked disappointed that Stanley Hall remained closed on Sunday.

At Berkeley Marina, the sight of absorbent booms and barriers prompted concerns about the environment. Susan Danis is a regular at the marina, feeding the geese and ducks at night.

"I'm concerned for their welfare," Danis said. "The waters are already polluted with plastic and other things and it's a sensitive environment."

The initial assessment on wildlife says the impact is minimal. The birds seem to be reacting, but there are also fish in Strawberry Creek, and the effects on them are still being assessed.

Crews plan to have Stanley Hall open Monday in time for finals.

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