Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tugboat Hits Pipeline, Spills Gas Into Carquinez Strait

A gasoline spill at a pier in Martinez that was initially estimated to be 1,500 gallons has turned out to have been only about 5 gallons, California Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response spokeswoman Carol Singleton said. The 78-foot tugboat Independence was passing by the Tesoro's Golden Eagle refinery Avon wharf facility when it hit three pipes at about 12:20 a.m., Coast Guard spokesman Kevin Neff said. The tug was headed west toward the San Francisco Bay when it hit the landward side of the wharf. The pipes are used to transfer gasoline to ships, Neff said. The pipes, about 12 inches in diameter, were not transferring gasoline when struck, but residual fuel left in the pipeline spilled into waters in the area of the Carquinez Strait about a mile and a half from the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, Neff said. A rough initial estimate suggested that about 1,500 gallons of gasoline spilled. Neff said other liquid may have leaked into the water, but the amounts were hard to determine due to a lack of early-morning light.
tugboat Independence
The Coast Guard response to the spill will include drug and alcohol testing of the tugboat crew, and emergency response agencies have been notified, Neff said. There were no other boats and no other activity in the area at the time of the crash, according to the Coast Guard. Coast Guard crews had not deployed boom at about 4:30 a.m. while an investigation in the dark continued, Neff said. Wednesday's spill comes about six months after the Cosco Busan crashed into a support tower of the Bay Bridge, spilling more than 50,000 gallons of fuel into the bay. The pilot at the helm of that ship, Captain John Cota, is charged with two felonies for allegedly lying to the Coast Guard about annual medical reports. Cota's lawyer is trying to move the trial outside the Bay Area, because, he said, potential jurors have been exposed to leaked government accusations. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson was one of many who complained that the city was not notified for 12 hours after that spill. Initial reports suggested just 140 gallons poured into the bay that foggy day. That spill is known to have killed about 2,000 birds. But some wildlife biologists feared that more than 20,000 birds may ultimately have died from that spill.

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