Crude awakening will have long term effects

Crude awakening will have long term effects

Dec. 1st will be first day SF beaches officially reopen, following intensive oil cleanup

by Mollie McWilliams and Angela Bacca , staff writer

NOVEMBER 15, 2007 9:53 AM

More than a week after a Cosco Busan freighter hit the Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 gallons of oil into the water, facts are still in dispute over who to blame and just what the lasting effects of all that oil in the water will be.

According to Barry McFarland, the incident commander of the O’Brien’s Group—the private company responsible for the overall cleanup effort—as the tides ebb and flow through the Golden Gate, it becomes increasingly more difficult to recover the oil.

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To date, 26 beaches around the Bay are still closed. In harder hit beaches like Marin’s Rodeo Beach, the smell of oil was strong in the air as the first on scene hazardous material crews removed tar balls and globules from the shoreline.

“The cleanup will take at least a month,” said Jaime Kooser, a professor of environmental studies at SF State. Kooser manages the SF Bay National Estuarine Research and Reserve in the College of Science and Engineering on campus, which is partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Kooser has been participating in the NOAA Natural Resources Assessment, which documents damage around the bay caused by the oil spill, and seeks to identify oil found as belonging to the Cosco Busan. Kooser has also been participating in preliminary beach cleanup, which includes collecting the small globules that are easily picked up off the beach.

By Friday, in addition to the 9,500 gallons that had been cleaned up the days before, another 8,000 gallons of oily liquid had been recovered from the water. As of Nov. 11, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) reported that they had collected 12,271 gallons of oil from the water and beaches. The USCG estimated that an additional 4,060 gallons have evaporated.

All along San Francisco’s beaches, a visible build up of tar has washed ashore and more and more birds are showing patches of oil on their feathers. According to the U.S. Department of Fish and Game, of the 1,226 birds collected, 715 live oiled birds are now in custody and, 183 have been cleaned. Of the collected birds, 66 have died. An additional 511 birds have been found dead on site. A trip to any of the area’s beaches will turn up many more oiled birds that were unaccounted for.

Volunteers who showed up over the weekend were frustrated because they weren’t able to participate in the cleanup, Bradley said of the initial crowd of around 100 people who gathered at Rodeo Beach last Saturday.

“I got a bag from one of the lifeguards and started cleaning up [oil] myself,” said Seychelle Bradley, a 20-year-old international business major at SF State.

According to Yvonne Adassi, wildlife director at the Department of Fish and Game, the public was asked not to clean up the beaches because they were not properly trained in the cleanup and disposal of oil.

In a Nov. 13 press release from the USCG said “well-intentioned members of the public have been cleaning up oiled beaches and placing the oil and oily rags in the trash.” They are asking that the public not clean up these beaches as civilians do not have proper tools to dispose of the oil.

Admiral Craig Bone of the 11th District Coast Guard said it was important “that volunteers need to be trained in how to handle oil and wildlife,” and to not approach oiled birds, but to report them to Fish and Game.

There are 162 wildlife volunteers at the Cordelia bird treatment facility near Fairfield, according to a Nov. 13 Fish and Game press release, and 11 beach cleanup teams are stationed in Marin and San Francisco as well.

The cause of why the freighter hit the western pillar of the Bay Bridge is still under investigation. Results of initial drug and alcohol tests of ship captain, John Cota, and his crew have yet to be released. Adm. Bone said at a press conference that the responsible parties are going to be held accountable for their actions.

At this time the responsible party is still Cosco Busan’s owner Regal Stone Ltd., according to spokesperson Darryl Wilson. Regal Stone is cooperating with the Coast Guard’s impending investigation.

Bone said the initial report of only 10 barrels of spilled oil in the bay, was not corrected until later on the evening of the crash, and that “bridge management issues,” regarding communication between the ship and the Coast Guard, caused the delay of wide-spread deployment of oil skimmers, boats that skim the surface of the water, cleaning up the oil.

Bone said in a press conference on Nov. 11 the two initial skimmers were in vicinity to the boat within 30 minutes of the 9:15 a.m. call from the ship to the Coast Guard command post.

The Coast Guard press release on Nov. 13 said, however, that skimmers were not deployed until an hour after the crash. A complete audit of the ship and crew will be completed in the following weeks, Bone said, in regards to the crash and initial deployment of skimmers.

And as clean up continues McFarland said skimmers would remain deployed. Eight were currently deployed as of Nov. 13.

“As long as [skimmers] are effective, they will be out there,” McFarland said.

Volunteer efforts along the coastline of the bay and ocean will continue as long as they are needed. According to the U.S. Department of Fish and Game, those who would like to be a part of the efforts to help clean up the affected areas are encouraged to visit their Web site: http://www.dfg.ca.gov.

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