Berkeley Shoreline Opens, Tar Still Dots Some East Bay Beaches

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday January 22, 2008

More than two months after HazMat experts replaced local volunteers to clean up the gunk left over from the Cosco Busan oil spill, city officials declared the Berkeley shoreline reopened Wednesday. 

William Rogers, acting director for the city’s Parks Waterfront and Recreation division, told the Planet that the city was working on an additional oil spill recovery plan to thwart unforeseen incidents in the future. 

“So that next time it happens we are even more prepared than we were,” he said. “I am overall satisfied. Our city came through at the right time. In the beginning the volunteers did a great job with the clean-up and then the hired contractors took over the dangerous bits.” 

Rogers said that the O’Brien Group, the private recovery firm hired by Cosco Busan owner Regal Stone Ltd., had finished cleaning the oil inside the Marina and from the city’s beaches. 

More than 40 HazMat professionals used hand towels to wipe the rocks along the city’s shoreline free of tar-like bunker fuel for more than seven weeks. 

At an Aquatic Park Subcommittee Wednesday, Rogers said that the lagoon had not been affected by oil at any point during the incident. 

He pointed out that the city had closed all the tidal tube gates on Nov. 9—two days after the cargo ship crashed into a Bay Bridge tower and spilled oil into the bay—except for one. 

“We put a berm in front of that gate so that no oil could enter the park,” he said. “The gates have now been opened.” 

The city also lifted its state of emergency on Dec. 19, almost a month after it had been put into place. Other emergency proclamations, including prohibition of water exposure, boat washing and off-leash dogs, have also expired. 

Restrictions on boat traffic for all commercial and recreational owners have also been lifted. 

According to a City of Berkeley online update, tar balls and other oil spill residue can still be seen in some marina locations and the city’s Environmental Health division is currently monitoring the situation. 

“I believe there may still be some health warnings posted out there,” said city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross. 

According to the city’s website the spill advisory is still in effect: 

• Avoid direct skin contact with the oil or tar balls. 

• If you get oil on your skin, wash it off with soap and water and be sure to wash your hands before eating. 

• Do not eat mussels collected from the Berkeley shoreline until further notice. 

• Do not burn debris, driftwood or other materials contaminated with oil. 

The Cosco Busan Unified Command Oil Spill Response website reports that several East Bay beaches—including Albany Beach, Brickyard Cove shoreline, sections of Park Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, and all Richmond beaches—remained closed last week for oil monitoring and assessment. 

“Hot shot” teams with appropriate equipment to clean up oil, tar balls and contaminated debris on the water and the shoreline are still doing scheduled maintenance and monitoring while remaining on standby to respond to oil sightings. 

Oil sightings can be reported to the incident command post by calling (415)-398-9617.