Focus shifts to coastline in cleanup effort

Boats patrolling San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast are finding less toxic fuel, prompting officials to focus their cleanup effort on the shoreline, where gobs of sticky tarlike substance have washed up.

Coast Guard Adm. Craig Bone said Sunday that the cleanup is becoming a “manpower-intensive effort” and his staff is expected to double over the next few days. At the same time, hundreds of volunteers around the Bay Area are being turned away from training or set to less dangerous tasks such as “precleaning” and observation.

So far, 20,000 gallons of oil have been collected, according to the Coast Guard.

Mohammed Nuru, deputy operations director for the Department of Public Works, said around 200 volunteers were bused out to places such as Candlestick Point and Islais Creek Sunday to pick up litter and keep an eye out for signs of contamination.

At the staging area in Heron’s Head Park, volunteers hefted bags of trash and invasive ice plant, but there was no sign oftar balls.

Volunteer Mike Minton, 26, came out from the Richmond district to help clean what he thought would be an oil slick.

“It sounded like it was going to be a big mess,” he said. “Incidentally, it was a mess, just not the kind I was expecting.”

The full scope of the mess has yet to come into focus. Dungeness crab season was set to begin this week, but the Crab Boat Owners Association voted Sunday to delay the start of the season. As of Sunday evening, 465 birds had been collected around the Bay Area with no hope of the numbers falling off soon. Nearly half of those, 196, are dead.

Boats capturing fuel out on the water are coming back with thousands of gallons less every day, according to Bone, but that doesn’t mean the cleanup is almost done.

“The oil right now is so thin that the skimmers … are not picking up nearly the quantity of oil as they did in the earlier days,” Bone said. “Tar balls will start showing up on beaches and the bulk of the cleanup will occur there.”

Angel Island State Park, which has been closed since Friday, will reopen to the public today, according to the California State Park Service.

Closed beaches

» Clipper Cove Beach, T.I.

» Aquatic Park (booms in place)» S.F. Municipal Pier

» Fort Point

» Baker Beach (heavy oil)

» China Beach (heavy oil)

» Fort Baker

» Mile Rock Beach

» Kirby Cove (heavy oil)

» Rodeo Beach (heavy oil)

» Tennesee Valley

» Muir Beach (heavy oil)

» Angel Island (heavy oil)

» Keller Beach

» Ferry Point

» Point Isabel

» Baxter Creek to Lucretia Edwards Park

» Coastal Access point to Cliffside; Point Richmond

» Middle Harbor Regional Park

» Steep Ravine Beach (Mount Tamalpais)

» Red Rock Beach (Mount Tamalpais)

» Crissy Field Beach (booms in place)

» Stinson Beach

» Ocean Beach has an advisory posted

» San Francisco Piers 1-39 (booms in place)

Source: U.S. Coast Guard

bbegin@examiner.com

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