Oil spill update November 9

November 10, 2007

San Francisco’s waterfront smells like an auto-repair garage. munipier_sign

After a disheartening visit to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach Friday morning, I went to Aquatic Park in the afternoon to see what things were like there. As my wife, my daughter and I approached the water, the smell was powerful and unavoidable. Unlike the familiar tarry smell of an old wharf on a warm day, this was a sharper, more pungent scent, reminiscent of visiting a dying car in the ward of a Mission District garage, surrounded by mechanics with solemn faces and purple gloves.

What we saw was both better and worse than the scene at Ocean Beach that morning.rocks_aquaticpark While at Ocean Beach I found four oil-covered birds in the space of an hour and a few hundred yards of sand, at Aquatic Park a great blue heron, a black-crowned night heron (I think) and a gull were all hunting a rocky reef exposed by the very low tide. It was encouraging to see them apparently unperturbed and behaving normally. But just a few feet away, the seawall and rocks closer to shore were black with oil. The oil on the surface of the rocks is one thing, but the spaces between the rocks are rich with life (an abundance of fish that surprises most people, crabs and other crustaceans, mollusks, worms, sponges, algae), as is the sediment beneath them. Oil in these places is unlikely to be recovered by even the most scrupulous cleanup, and the impact probably will be ongoing for decades.

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Black death on the beach

November 9, 2007

Oil spilled from a cargo ship that crashed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridgedead_murre_OceanBeach Wednesday morning continues to have a devastating impact on wildlife and beaches.

This morning, Nov. 9, two days after the spill, I went down to Ocean Beach near my home in San Francisco to see the effects for myself. It was awful.

It wasn’t as bad as the images you might have seen of the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez spill, with waves that seemed composed of more oil than water basting the shore with a sickly sheen. And other nearby beaches are probably in much worse condition than Ocean Beach. But it was bad enough. Small clumps of thick, congealed oil were everywhere, and the smell of petroleum permeated the air.


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