Emergency responders back off Monterey Harbor oil spill.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
About 2 gallons of oil spilled into Monterey Harbor on the morning of June 27, spreading a greasy rainbow over 100 square yards of the water’s surface between Wharfs One and Two.
But emergency responders – including the Monterey Fire Department, the Monterey Harbormaster and the U.S. Coast Guard – left the clean-up to evaporation.
A harbormaster staff member noticed the slick while repairing the General Pershing, a sinking fishing vessel, Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer says. Reports by the California Emergency Management Agency and Monterey Fire Department suggest another fishing vessel, Irene’s Way, was responsible for the spill.
A hose stretched from the boat’s deck appeared to be discharging below the water line, and a sheen was rising around it, according to the Fire Department report. A witness who asked not to be identified says a harbor seal dived through the slick.
Scheiblauer says the responsible vessel could be subject to punishment under local, state and federal clean water laws. Irene’s Way hasn’t been confirmed as the oil source, he adds. The boat’s captain couldn’t be reached for comment.
Bridget Hoover, water quality coordinator for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, says the agency is notified about sheens in the harbor almost monthly. “There’s really no method of cleaning that up,” she says.
But Lauren Gilligan, clean boating program coordinator for Save Our Shores, is surprised responders didn’t attempt a cleanup with oil-absorbent pads. Oil can kill fish eggs on the water’s surface, put pelicans at risk of hypothermia, and contaminate filter feeders such as crabs and abalone.
“Even if it is only 2 gallons, it can affect a lot of species,” she says. “Every little drip counts.”