San Francisco Receives $2 million Settlement for Oil Spill
In 2009, the bay area had their very own mini Exxon Valdez spill that fouled the waters of San Francisco and Alameda. A 600-foot oil tanker Dubai Star, spilled 422 gallons of thick viscous bunker fuel into the bay due to a refueling accident. Although it was quite small compared to, the Cosco Busan that spilled more 50,000 gallons after it hit the bay bridge in 2007- it still had effects on nearby areas wildlife, recreation and local businesses.
“There’s no such thing as a minor oil spill in San Francisco Bay,” said Capt. Scott Schaefer, acting administrator of the state Office of Spill Prevention and Response, a division of the state Fish and Game Department.
On Tuesday May 8th two district attorneys from San Francisco filed a lawsuit on Dubai Star for the spill claiming that when the valve broke during the refueling process the crew was slow to act and failed to adequately monitor the situation. The master of the Dubai Star was asleep when the incident occurred. He was woken at 6:15 am and did not notify government officials until 30 minutes later. Once the call was made he reported that a “little bit” of oil spilled onto the “deck only” and “nothing was going overboard.”
Investigators found that the crew ship members waited hours before notifying cleanup companies as well resulting in more damage than necessary. In addition, it took 4 hours for the cleaning companies to deploy protective floating boom around the ship, which would have helped contain the oil.
After an assessment of the damages conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and several other groups, they quantified that 10 miles of shoreline were lightly oiled affecting tourism and activities. Many fisheries and beaches were closed near the Alameda Island. This prompted commercial fisherman and a fish processing plant to file a lawsuit against Dubai Star for $10 million in lost profits. The suit was later dismissed by a judge in 2010 because the litigators failed to link the ship owners to the lost profits.
Moreover, a total of 186 birds died including brown pelicans, grebes, American coots, Drakes and shorebirds. Also, 212 acres of intertidal, subtidal, and shoreline habitats saw various adverse impacts.
A good portion of the $2 million settlement funds will be going towards restoration of wildlife habitats. The trustees are considering native vegetation enhancement at the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, which will improve the marsh habitat and provide high tide roosting areas for birds. The project may also include additional measures to protect endangered birds in the marsh. Furthermore, a project will restore rocky intertidal habitat along the Alameda County shoreline.
Other potential improvements may be made at Robert W Crown Beach with some sand renewal.
After the refueling accident Assemblyman Jared Huffman, San Rafael, proposed a bill that would require all large ships using bunker fuel in San Francisco and Los Angeles Ports, to be surrounded by protective floating boom before filling up. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger later vetoed it.
Something needs to be done as a preventative measure for oil spills. If it’s not containment boom, then what will it be?
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