Oil Slick Complicated by Rain

by Copyright 2004 NBC10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. | Dec 1, 2004
Oil Slick Complicated by Rain A heavy rain expected around midnight in the Delaware Valley has environmentalists worried that a massive oil slick on the Delaware River could cause even more damage along the coast.

Some environmentalists believe that heavy rain will churn up the oil and push it further onto shore. But some experts said they believe the extra rush of water will help break up the oil slick.

Oil Spill Spreads 40 Miles
On Tuesday, the Coast Guard said that the slick has spread sporadically along a 40-mile stretch of river north of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

Environmental crews continued their cleanup operation Tuesday of the thousands of gallons of oil that leaked last weekend from the Athos One, a 750-foot tanker ship.

The original reports said that 30,000 gallons of oil was spilled into the river, but after the tanker was brought upright Wednesday, Coast Guard officials told NBC 10 News that 473,000 gallons are missing from the damaged tank. It is still unclear how much was actually was spilled in the accident.

On Monday, 300 people were working on the cleanup, but on Tuesday over 700 people were required to keep up with the mess along the coastline.

Birds Cleaned In Effort To Save Them From Dying
Part of the cleanup problem is the birds who make the river their home.

NBC 10 went down to the Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark, Del., to watch the birds being cleaned.

The first thing they put on the birds was canola oil, which breaks up the heavy crude so it can slip off the birds' feathers. The birds are then given a shower. After that is done, the birds are put in a pen where they preen themselves and get their feathers back in order. The downside, however, is that nobody knows how much oil the birds ingested when they tried to clean the crude off themselves. Some of the birds that have been saved by cleaning could end up dying of poisoning.

Ships Being Let Through On Case-By-Case Basis
The Coast Guard has reopened part of the Delaware River to shipping on a case-by-case basis.

The captain of the Port of Philadelphia says a few ships were allowed to pass through the shipping channel Monday, but that cleaning up Friday's oil spill is the first priority.

Limited shipping resumed in part because local refineries do not keep large stockpiles of crude oil on hand.

Ships had been stranded in the port since Friday night, when crude oil from a ruptured tanker prompted the Coast Guard to close the river between the Commodore Barry and Walt Whitman bridges.

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 2-foot by 1-foot puncture found overnight Sunday was in the same cargo tank where divers had earlier discovered a 6-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 indication that the ship suffered a structural failure, or had been leaking for long before the slick was discovered.

About 17 ships had been stranded in the port 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.

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 1 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.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can be reached at 215-365-1558. Damage claims are being handled by Hudson Marine Management Services at 856-486-0800.

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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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