Oil Spill Spreads North

by Copyright 2004 NBC10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. | Nov 30, 2004
Oil Spill Spreads North The cause of the worst oil spill on the Delaware River in nearly a decade remains a mystery.

Also, the slick has spread north to the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge in Northeast Philadelphia. Earlier this week, the spill had extended from the Commodore Barry Bridge, south of Philadelphia to the Ben Franklin Bridge.

About 400 workers are on the scene cleaning up the 24-mile oil slick resulting from the release of 30,000 gallons of oil into the river late Friday night.

Officials said Monday that Coast Guard dive teams found a second hole in the hull of the Athos One, a 750-foot tanker ship. The two-foot by one-foot puncture found overnight Sunday was in the same cargo tank where divers had earlier discovered a six-foot gash, apparently caused by something that struck the ship underwater.

But an initial sonar survey by the Army Corps of Engineers failed to find anything unusual on the river bottom that might have ground against the ship. And there's no indications that the ship suffered a structural failure, or had been leaking for long before the slick was discovered.

The captain of the Port of Philadelphia said a few ships have been allowed to pass following a major oil spill, but said cleaning up the mess was the first priority.

"We're working very diligently to reopen the river, realizing that commerce must take place,' Jonathan D. Sarubbi said Monday. ``But cleanup operations have to take precedence.'

About 17 ships had been stranded in the port ever since Friday night, when the spill from the ruptured oil tanker caused the U.S. Coast Guard to close shipping lanes on the river.

The first ship to get through was a container vessel from Brazil that had been due Sunday, port officials said. It began unloading Monday afternoon at Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia.

Scores of birds soaked in sticky crude could be seen along the river's banks Sunday. Hundreds will probably perish, though some were being taken to a sanctuary in Delaware, Campbell said.

Brian Goldy, 48, often spots hundreds of Canada geese from his waterfront condominium in Essington, near the Philadelphia International Airport.

On Sunday morning, he found just five on a grassy pad by the river, all of them blackened and unable to fly. The birds, in an effort to clean themselves, were ingesting the fuel, Goldy said.

"It's terrible. It's absolutely terrible. Being a resident here and seeing the impact on the wildlife, it makes me sick," said Goldy, who said the smell in the area was overwhelming

The Coast Guard, mindful of the financial effects of the weekend closure of the industrial port, hoped to let some idled commercial vessels through on Monday, Coast Guard officials said. More than a dozen vessels, mainly carrying oil and chemicals, were parked at both ends of the port.

In 1995 strong winds pushed a tanker away from a dock at the Coastal Eagle Point Refinery in West Deptford, N.J., snapping a fuel line that spilled 40,000 gallons. In 1989, a tanker ran aground near Claymont, Del., spilling 300,000 gallons of heating oil into the river.

About one million barrels of oil come through the Port of Philadelphia daily.

Acting New Jersey Gov. Richard J. Codey had initially said the port would be closed for about three days. He said that Tsakos would foot the bill for the cleanup.

Campbell said the company has been cooperative, and he didn't anticipate that the company would face any fines. He said the river restoration would likely cost millions of dollars.

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Author: Copyright 2004 by NBC10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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