Pacifica beaches closed

Oil from Wednesday's 58,000-gallon Cosco Busan oil spill in the San Francisco Bay has made it to San Mateo County, resulting inthe closure of four Pacifica beaches today, county emergency services officials reported.

According to county spokeswoman Beverly Thames, several small, “tear-drop sized” tar balls, as well as a few larger ones, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, were discovered Monday on Pacifica's Esplanade Beach.

County environmental health officials have since closed the beach while contractors hired by the Cosco Busan's ownership group determine the extent of the oil contamination, according to Thames. The group will also be responsible for cleaning the beach, Thames said.

Pacifica's Linda Mar, Rockaway and Sharp Park beaches have also been closed to the public as a precautionary measure, according to Thames.

A reopening date for the beaches has not yet been scheduled, Thames said.

Investigators believe human error may have caused the 900-foot container ship Cosco Busan to crash into a San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge tower in heavy fog Wednesday morning, ripping a hole in the ship's side, the Coast Guard reported.

Since the spill, oil has reportedly spread from the bay to waters north of Stinson Beach in Marin County and south of San Francisco. Inside the bay, oil has been found from the Richmond shoreline to Alameda, and from Angel Island to San Francisco.

San Mateo County's Office of Emergency Services has been working with city and county agencies, as well as the Coast Guard, and has dispatched boats and airplanes daily to monitor the spread of the oil and any injured wildlife.

To date, no oil has been found on any bayside beaches, rocks or levees in San Mateo County, OES spokesman Bill O'Callahan said.

As of this morning, no oil had been sighted at any ocean side beaches south of Pacifica, O'Callahan said.

In addition, no oil or injured wildlife have so far been reported in the Daly City area, north of Pacifica, said Matt Lucett, emergency preparedness and planning chief for the North County Fire Authority.

Harbor patrols at Pillar Point Harbor in Princeton-by-the-Sea, south of Pacifica, found two oil-covered birds in the harbor on Sunday, and four to five more on Monday, according to Assistant Harbormaster John Draper.

The birds were turned over to an area bird rescue group for cleaning, Draper said. No oil has been seen either in or just beyond the harbor, he added.

One oil-covered cormorant was found on Friday at the Oyster Point Marina in South San Francisco, according to Deputy Harbormaster Greg Gubser.

Gubser added that “slight areas of oil clumping” had been seen about four miles off Oyster Point.

Updated reports this morning showed far less oil in the bay waters, including off South San Francisco, according to Thames.

An oil slick in Redwood City's Redwood Shores lagoon area does not appear to be related to the oil spill, but was likely caused by rainwater runoff after officials isolated the lagoon from the bay following the spill, Redwood City fire Capt. Dave Tucci said. Tucci said the slick is being cleaned up.

Cleanup volunteers in San Mateo County can receive information at http://www.smcalert.info. Information on the cleanup and monitoring effort can also be found at the county's Web site, http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us.

To report oiled wildlife, residents can call (877) 823-6926; to report oil in the water or on beaches, call (866) 442-9650.

— Bay City News

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