Bay Area Briefs

Thursday September 12, 2002

Some oil may never be removed  

from ship near Golden Gate 

SAN FRANCISCO — Divers have pumped most of the oil from a sunken ship near the Golden Gate, but they may not be able to get all of it out. 

Oil in the SS Jacob Luckenbach, which sank in 1953 after colliding with another ship, has been seeping from the freighter periodically for at least 10 years. The leaks killed thousands of seabirds, fouled beaches from Point Reyes to Monterey and stumped the U.S. Coast Guard and environmentalists before they pinpointed the Luckenbach as the culprit earlier this year. 

Since June, divers have pumped more than 55,000 gallons of oil from the freighter, which is 175 feet below the surface. 

But tanks on the starboard side of the ship are buried 20 feet deep in the ocean floor. Three cargo decks with trains, trucks and parts are stacked above them, but they’re starting to cave in, making the area unsafe for divers, said Kim McCleneghan, a senior environmental scientist with the California Office of Spill Prevention and Response. 

For those tanks, McCleneghan said the best idea may be to let sand flow in and seal any cracks, preventing the oil, which is extremely thick, from escaping. State and federal agencies and the company doing the salvage still need to discuss their options. 

Airports report less activity 

Officials say there are fewer planes flew in and out the Bay Area's three major airports Wednesday, a downturn in air traffic that airlines prepared for given the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks involving hijacked planes. 

A spokesman for Oakland International Airport said there was 30 percent less flight activity at the Oakland Airport than on a typical Wednesday. 

“It's because of the day, and what happened,” the spokesman said.  

He said that last night, Mexicana airlines canceled two flights that were scheduled to arrive in Oakland today in response to Tuesday's announcement that the United States has been put on a high state of alert against a possible terrorist attack. 

HMOs disclose plans to drop  

coverage in parts of NorCal 

SAN FRANCISCO — Tens of thousands of Medicare patients in parts of Northern California will lose coverage by two major HMOs at year’s end. 

PacifiCare of California said it will leave Contra Costa and Alameda counties on Jan. 1, a move that will affect more than 10,000 seniors. The group also said Monday it will drop another 12,000 members in Butte and San Joaquin counties. 

In addition, Health Net said it will pull out of the Livermore area, which means 460 Alameda County patients must find new coverage. 

Monday was the deadline for HMOs to notify the government whether they would continue to serve the elderly and disabled who rely on Medicare for health coverage.