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Berkeley Marina Bird Rescue Center Closes as Cleanup Continues

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday November 27, 2007

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network closed down its bird rescue center at the Berkeley Marina Monday and moved operations to the International Bird Rescue and Research Center in Cordelia. 

Hundreds of oiled birds have been collected at the rescue center since Nov. 9—two days after the Cosco Busan crashed into the Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 tons of bunker fuel into the bay—and then driven to Cordelia for treatment. 

“We are finding less and less oiled and dead birds everyday,” Mark Ragatz, shoreline unit manager for the East Bay Regional Park District, told the Planet Monday. “We haven’t found any today. From now on, the sick birds will be taken to Cordelia directly.” 

Ragatz added that the East Bay regional parks were still closed to water traffic. 

“We are working with the county environmental health department to reopen less affected areas such as Crown Beach in Alameda and Point Pinole in Richmond,” he said. “We will be testing and sampling the water to see if it is safe. Several areas are still being cleaned up. HazMat professionals have been deployed from Miller/Knox in the south through Eastshore State Park, Point Isabel and Middle Harbor. There is still oil on the rocky shoreline but it looks much better.” 

The professionals deployed by The O’Brien’s Group, the private recovery firm hired by Cosco Busan owner Regal Stone Ltd. to respond to the oil spill, were still wiping the rocks along the Berkeley Marina free of oil Monday.  

The city had stopped deploying volunteers and handed over clean-up efforts to the professionals last week. 

“We are glad to have the contractors there,” said Berkeley city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross. “It’s definitely less of a crisis but we are still being careful about health and safety. Right now we are holding tight to see what kind of clean-up happens.” 

Jeff Topic, site supervisor for the HazMat crew contracted by O’Brien’s, said his men had been working around the clock to address the problem. 

“We didn’t stop even on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “There’s no holiday for us. We keep going every day from 7 a.m. as long as there is light and it’s safe to work. Things are better than before but it’s up to the Coast Guard to come and tell us when to stop. We’ll probably be here for a few more days.” 

The oil is being collected in lined dumpsters before being disposed of at a hazardous waste site, Topic said. 

The city is still under an emergency order and people are being asked to stay 50 feet away from the shoreline as directed by the proclamation issued by City Manager Phil Kamlarz. 

Although boat traffic is being allowed at the Marina, boat owners have been asked not to wash their boats. 

A plan to safely decontaminate boats and marinas is being developed by Unified Command. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has prohibited fishing for human consumption until Dec. 1. 

The Berkeley Aquatic Park lagoon was opened to rowing, canoeing and kayaking Wednesday. 

“The tide tubes have been closed for almost two weeks now, and that seems to have kept the lagoon fairly clean compared to the bay,” Deputy City Manager Lisa Caronna said in a statement. “We’re glad to see Aquatic Park being used again.”