Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tanker Goo

Last week, I left my house one morning to find that it was very foggy. It gets foggy, but often doesn't get that heavy down in the lower part of Oakland. But it was bad and hard to see.

That morning, one of the thousands of container ships that visits the Port of Oakland each year was navigating it's way under the Bay Bridge. Through some error, the ship scraped against a piling of the Bay Bridge and opened a jagged hole in the side of the vessel.

The initial concern was that the Bay Bridge was okay (or that's what I remember from the reporting on the first day). But, the concern changed, when the Coast Guard realized that 58,000 gallons of tanker fuel had been spilled into the Bay.

It has traveled throughout much of the estuary by now. There are bird rescues happening as birds are found on the beach covered in this toxic goo. Much ado is being made of this environmental disaster.

It's not that I don't care or that I'm not mourning the damage to these eco-systems. I am. But I'm also recognizing two things...1) this is the first time, in recent memory, at least, that a tanker has spilled into the Bay. This is a good thing, since we have a major oil refinery on the Bay and the 4th largest container port in the country. This is actually a good record. Like a major airport without any crashes. Think about how often you've scraped your car against a post or a wall when parking or driving. Now imagine navigating your car on water...

But the second thing that has been going through my mind is that this dramatic spill does nothing to highlight the amount of oil and gas that gets drained into the Bay every year from our own cars. Any time there is an oil leak on the street, that oil gets swept into the Bay by rain. We are slowly poisoning this body of water with our daily wastes. This has a huge effect on the shorebirds and the fish and other critters that use the Bay as a migratory stop or a spawning area.

People are all up in arms that more is not being done to clean the Bay, but it seems like a lot is being done to clean up the spill in the water and on the shores. People who are jumping in to help are putting themselves at risk...this tanker fuel is toxic. To those who are pissed that they aren't being "invited" to help: gee, we're sorry that there isn't time to train the lay communitee how to appropriatly clean things right now, but I think that everyone is a little busy.

That's all...rant over.

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