San Francisco Bay oil spill
A preliminary investigation found human error lead to San Francisco Bay’s worst oil spill in nearly two decades when a cargo ship crashed into the Bay Bridge, the U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday while rescue teams hurried to save hundreds of seabirds.
Coast Guard officials wouldn’t place blame on any particular individual or provide further information about the mistakes that were made during the midweek crash and spill.
Investigators were concentrating on issues surrounding the ship’s official protocol for safely navigating out of the bay, including possible communication problems between the ships crew, the pilot guiding the vessel and the Vessel Traffic Service, the Coast Guard station that monitors the bay’s shipping traffic.
The Cosco Busan was headed out of the bay when it sideswipped one of the supports of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Wednesday morning, creating a gash nearly 100 feet long on the side of the 926-foot vessel. After the crash, two ruptured fuel tanks leaked about 58,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into the bay.
On Saturday, the Coast Guard increased the number of ships to 20 from 11 the previous day to work on skimming the oil from the bay, said Petty Officer Sherri Eng. Nearly 20,000 gallons of the liquid had been cleaned up by Saturday morning, according to figures released by the Coast Guard.
The cleanup job is expected to last weeks or possibly months, according to the Associated Press, and concentrated globules could possibly remain in the water for months and cause problems for seabirds.
At least 60 birds were found dead while 200 live birds were recovered and sent to a rehabilitation center in Solano County.
State wildlife officials said they have received hundreds of reports of oiled birds found in Bay area beaches, with two dozen of the beaches closed after tides carried the oil under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Pacific Ocean.
According to the Star Tribune, researchers have already seen two dozen oiled murres, the penguin-like birds vulnerable to floating oil about 30 miles west of Golden Gate at the Farallon Islands, an ecologically important home for hundreds of thousands of seabirds, seals and sea lions.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday after meeting with state, federal and local officials overseeing the cleanup. The proclamation makes additional state personnel, funding and equipment available.
The Star Tribune:
The Associated Press: