High tides could spread oil spill

High tides in San Francisco Bay this weekend could further spread oil which leaked from a stricken tanker and wash it into previously unaffected areas, state and federal agencies have warned.

About 58,000 gallons of oil spilled into the bay after an outbound container vessel, Cosco Busan, collided with the San Francisco Bay Bridge on November 7.

Beaches had to be closed along the coast and Californian state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in the San Francisco area and a number of neighbouring counties.

More than 1,000 people have been employed in the clean-up operation and more than 16,000 gallons of oil had been recovered by Sunday.

The Cosco Busan Incident Unified Command – a partnership of agencies responding to the oil spill – reported last week that all the oil had been recovered from the water and the focus of the clean-up had switched to the beaches.

However, an assessment of the long-term impacts of the oil spill released by the Unified Command on Sunday warned that high tides could worsen the impact of the pollution.

It said: “Tide heights will peak on November 24, increasing the potential for oil that had come on to the beach to redistribute off the shoreline and into new areas that had not been impacted previously.”

The assessment added that pockets of oil could persist in the bay for about two to three weeks following the spill.

Governor Schwarzenegger announced last week that an investigation would be launched into the incident and the way it had been handled after it emerged that procedures may not have been followed correctly.

In his weekly radio address on Saturday, he said: “Like all Californians, I was sad and angry over last week’s oil spill in our beautiful San Francisco Bay.”

He added: “We will investigate the breakdowns that caused the ship to crash into the Bay Bridge and why local and state officials were not notified immediately about the severity of the spill.”

More than 1,300 dead birds have already been recovered and hundreds more have been rescued.

No structural damage was caused to the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Kate Martin

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