Spill forces Berkeley Marina closure

Problems associated with the large oil spill that resulted after a ship struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge have forced officials to close the Berkeley Marina.

City of Berkeley spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said this morning's incoming tide brought more oil globules and soiled birds into the marina and surrounding parks.

Clunies-Ross said boats are not being allowed in or out of the marina and residents and visitors are being warned by the city's Environmental Health Division that the shoreline is contaminated and they should keep people and pets away from the beaches and the water.

She said the Berkeley Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Team brought booms and other absorbent materials to the marina to help with the cleanup.

Marina staff and the entire hazmat team, made up of eight firefighters, responded to clean the water and the shore, she said. Efforts are expected to continue all day today and possibly into the weekend.

Acting Waterfront Manager Ann Hardinger said in a statement, “It's hard to predict how long the cleanup will be, or how long the effects will linger. A lot depends on just how much the ocean can take.”

High tide for Berkeley was at 10:45 a.m. today and low tide is predicted to be at 5:38 p.m. Berkeley officials hope that the tide will take some of the oil and tar pollution away from the shore.

Berkeley officials said at least 25 birds, dirty with oil and tar debris, have been found on the Cesar Chavez Park side of the Marina. The city is working with the California State Parks and the East Bay Regional Parks

District on capturing and caring for the birds and any other wildlife that is discovered.

State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said today that “there will be no paucity of state agencies looking at” the ship crash and the oil spill that resulted.

Perata said, “The biggest question is how it happened.”

On the other hand, Perata said it's not necessarily a huge surprise to have a shipping accident in the San Francisco Bay because “it's the highway for shipping” and is very busy.

Perata said he's most concerned about the apparently slow response to the oil spill.

“I thought agencies could have responded quicker and contained it faster,” he said.

Perata said, “I thought the technology (for containing the spill) was better.”

Berkeley officials said residents and visitors who see injured or oil-soiled birds shouldn't handle them because the oil is toxic.

Instead, officials said people should call the International Bird Rescue Research Center hot line at (877) 823-6926.

They said people who would like to volunteer to help the birds should call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network volunteer hot line at (800) 228-4544 or visit www.owcn.org.

Although the overall health effects of the spill are likely to be  negligible, Berkeley Health Officer Linda Rudolph said she recommends people

stay away from the shore and take several precautions.

She said people should avoid direct skin contact with the oil and shouldn't eat fish that smell or taste of petroleum or are coated with oil.

Rudolph said it people get oil on their skin, they should wash it off with soap and water and wash your hands before eating.

— Bay City News

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