Grand investigation into cause, response to oil
By Jeff Shuttleworth and Laura Dudnick
November 10, 2007
Local officials say they will investigate Wednesday's 58,000-gallon
oil spill in the San Francisco Bay from every angle possible,
from cause to response to prevention.
Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said Friday that as Chair
of the state Assembly Committee on Natural Resources she will
hold an emergency oversight hearing next week to review response
efforts to the spill.
The hearing will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at a Bay Area location
that will be announced later, she said.
Hancock said during the hearing the committee will have an opportunity
to investigate what led to the spill, assess current conditions
and examine the environmental damage as well as determine what
immediate steps will be necessary to ensure proper cleanup and
protection of coastal and marine resources and wildlife.
About 9,500 gallons of oil have been scooped up from the San
Francisco Bay following the spill, but cleaning the water is growing
more difficult as the oil thins and spreads, according to the
U.S. Coast Guard.
A 900-foot container ship piloted by Capt. John Cota clipped
a tower of the bridge, gashing a hole in the left side of the
vessel that leaked fuel. The Coast Guard is investigating the
cause of the accident.
"We're looking at the inner workings of various crewmembers
on board the vessel," said Ross Wheatley, chief of investigations
for the U.S. Coast Guard. "We take a look at how those people
function, what information they had and how they shared it."
Coast Guard officials will also investigate the vessel itself
once it is transported to the Port of Oakland, Uberti said.
Regal Stone Ltd., the company that owns Cosco Busan, is paying
for all cleanup costs associated with the spill, U.S. Coast Guard
Lt. Anya Hunter said.
Officials are investigating communication problems among the
crew onboard the Cosco Busan at the time of the crash as a possible
cause of the collision, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. William Uberti
Barry McFarland, a spokesman for the O'Brien's Group, an organization
contracted by Cosco Busan, said 11 skimmers that have been scooping
up oil since the spill are expected to continue cleaning efforts
for the next few days.
Approximately 18,000 feet of boom current, which acts as floating
oil barriers, have been dispersed throughout the bay, McFarland
said. About 60,000 feet of additional containment barrier boom
are ready for deployment as well, he said.
Muir Beach and Angel Island closed this morning, and ferry service
to Angel Island was canceled as well, California State Park officials
Commuter ferry services in the Bay Area are running on schedule,
and although personal boats have not been restricted from sailing
in the bay the Coast Guard is advising boaters to keep their vessels
docked while cleaning efforts ensue.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a state of emergency while
visiting the site of the spill.
In a statement, Hancock said, "This oil spill is a wake
up call for the Bay Area. For a spill of relatively small size,
it has quickly spread out of control, impacting not only the waters
and wildlife of the Bay but also the Pacific Ocean and our coastal
Hancock said, "It is imperative that the committee hold
this hearing to evaluate the response to this spill so that we
are better prepared for future events of potentially greater significance."
As the oil disperses throughout the bay, more than 10 beaches
remain closed after birds and humans saturated in soil emerged
from the polluted waters Wednesday and Thursday, according to
the Coast Guard.
Both local and state officials have expressed their concern with
the bay's situation.
Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said in a written statement
he and his colleagues "remain vigilant in our pursuit of
answers as to why this disaster occurred, how we can contain the
damage it's causing and how we can prevent it in the future."
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, D-San Francisco, reiterated a Marine
Casualty Investigation is underway. "Those responsible for
the severe breakdown in communication will be held accountable,"
Boxer said in a written statement.
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