Group turns oil into food for ’shrooms

A San Francisco resident and others who used human hair to scour Cosco Busan shipping fuel from Bay Area shorelines think they’ve come up with a way to use mushrooms to organically turn spilled oil into compost, but attempts to use the container ship’s spilled fuel to test the technology have been thwarted.

Lisa Gautier and other beach lovers used mats of human hair, which is naturally oil-absorbent, to collect some of the 58,000 gallons of shipping fuel that spilled into the Bay on Nov. 7.

Gautier said they handed the fuel that they collected over to National Response Corp., which was hired to help clean up after the spill. The fuel includes oil and oil additives.

But Gautier says she now regrets handing over the fuel, and she’s trying to get 20 gallons back for a trial project at Presidio National Park that would use the fuel as food for oyster mushrooms.

Presidio spokeswoman Dana Polk said the mushroom compost would be used as compost at the 1,490-acre park.

Gautier said she wants to try growing the mushrooms in Cosco Busan fuel. She has written permission from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to perform the tests using the hazardous fuel.

“Mushrooms love to break down hair and they also love to break down the hydrocarbons in oil,” Gautier said. “The people at NRC have to pay to incinerate their waste oil and it just turns it into air pollution that we all breathe.”

But Gautier said an official with the National Response Corp., David Dell’Osso, has refused to hand over any of the fuel.

Dell’Osso declined to discuss the issue with The Examiner on Monday.

“I’m not allowed to talk to the press about that,” he said. “That’s company policy.”

Instead, Dell’Osso referred The Examiner to sister company Seacor International.

“One reason that NRC is not offering up any oil is that it’s not our oil to offer up to anybody,” Seacor International General Manager Larry Pintler said. “[Gautier] should contact the owner of that oil.”

Gautier said nobody she’s spoken with will claim ownership of the oil, which was recovered for the foreign-based owners and insurers of the Cosco Busan in an effort that was coordinated by the O’Brien’s Group and federal agencies.

Gautier said she plans to push ahead with tests using other oils and fuels. “We’ve used motor oil,” she said. “That’s doing really well after 15 days.”

Agency to discuss oil-spill response

Mayor Gavin Newsom and U.S. Coast Guard officials are expected to discuss the slow response to the Cosco Busan spill during a meeting today of The City’s Disaster Council.

Local emergency services weren’t immediately informed by Coast Guard officials that a container ship had crashed into the Bay Bridge on Nov. 7. Additionally, when they sent a fire boat to check out reports of an accident, they were turned away by Coast Guard officials, according to transcripts of communication that day.

Coast Guard officials will atttend today’s meeting. Newsom is slated to make comments and offer recommendations in the wake of the spill, according to Office of Emergency Services Executive Director Laura Phillips.

“Since we’re in litigation right now, we’re getting some guidance about what we can present at this point,” Phillips said. “But we want to get some information out there, and we want to be transparent.”

Members of the Disaster Council include Newsom, police Chief Heather Fong, fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, Department of Public Health Director Mitchell Katz and other high-ranking officials, according to the meeting agenda.

jupton@examiner.com

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