58,000 gallons of oil impacting Bay Area wildlife
"This is a tragedy for the bay"
By Laura Dudnick
November 8, 2007
Do not approach animals saturated in oil, wildlife officials
are warning the public today. Not after 58,000 gallons of the
toxic fuel spilled into the San Francisco Bay Wednesday, soaking
more than a hundred creatures.
Twenty-one seabirds were receiving treatment early this afternoon,
said the University of California, Davis Wildlife Health Center,
which is leading several local agencies in the animal rescues.
Once the birds are plucked from the oily water or beaches, they
are taken to the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education
Center in Cordelia, where they are first warmed and nourished
before they are washed, according to UC Davis.
Although the number of animals threatened by this incident hasn't
been determined, for every bird found washed ashore, an estimated
10 to 100 birds died at sea, said Jonna Mazet, a veterinarian
at UC Davis.
"This is a tragedy for the bay," said David Lewis,
the executive director of Save the Bay.
"We're already seeing evidence of the damage. This is the
largest oil spill in more than a decade, and it's essential that
cleanup and response happen as quickly as possible."
Lewis added that habitats are threatened both on the shoreline
and in the water, and said those responsible for the spill should
have to compensate for the loss.
The spill occurred when the left side of a 900-foot container
ship crashed into a Bay Bridge tower at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday
and damaged two bumper tanks, which subsequently began leaking
oil into the bay, said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Anya Hunter.
Officials aboard the ship at the time of the crash estimated
approximately 500 gallons had spilled, but further investigation
determined a much greater amount of oil was in the water.
Because the oil in the water poses "potential health concerns,"
officials closed more than 10 Bay Area beaches and cited numerous
areas contaminated from the spill, said Hunter.
Rodeo, Blacksand, Kirby Cove, Fort Point, Baker, China, Crissy,
Keller, Albany, Crown and East beaches are closed, and areas around
Alcatraz Island, Point Bonita, Point Isabel Regional Shoreline,
Ferry Point Pier, North Basin at Eastshore State Park, Middle
Harbor Shoreline Park and Brooks Island Regional Preserve have
been impacted by the oil.
A barrier of absorbent material, called boom, has been deployed
at Hoffman Marsh Channel at Point Isabel and Middle Harbor Shoreline
Park in Oakland in an effort to soak up the oil, according to
the East Bay Regional Park District.
In addition to the contaminated shorelines and waters, odor from
the spilled oil is pungent in some areas, although local air quality
is not affected by the spill, according to Mark Ross, chair of
the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
"The smell will dissipate fairly quickly; it's a volatile
substance," Ross said. "We don't in any way think that
air quality will be affected, other than the unsavory odors you
will smell in proximity to the oil."
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. William Uberti said by draining the tanks
and checking the difference in amounts, officials established
how much oil had escaped and immediately began cleaning the spill.
Special boats that scoop up oil but avoid water, called skimming
vessels, are being used to recover the oil, according to Barry
McFarland, a spokesman for the O'Brien's Group, an organization
that renders aid for various emergencies such as large oil spills.
Five skimming vessels are in the bay. Three are recovering oil
in the waters west of the Golden Gate Bridge, McFarland said.
Shoreline cleanup assessment teams are inspecting land affected
by the oil to recommend appropriate cleanup techniques and necessities,
according to McFarland.
Officials have administered drug and alcohol tests on the ship's
pilot and navigation crew, Uberti said.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation, Hunter said
The public is asked to call (985) 781-0804 to make any claims
relating to the oil spill.
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