Oil spill help?
November 9, 2007 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Our marina is full of big stinky chunks (yes chunks) of oil from the oil spill and I'm tired of waiting for the grown ups to do anything.

I'm disgusted with our overall system that demands we who live and breathe and run and surf and swim and kayak here not worry our pretty little heads about this catastrophe- just let the authorities take care of things. As though it were even feasible for them to do so. I'm even more disgusted that I, like everyone else, have gone along with it, because I'm afraid of making things worse. It feels like some huge scale Milgrim experiment.

I would like to go down with my shovel and some hefty bags and start getting rid of some of this oil. Has anyone here dealt with oil spills before? What's the least annoying way of doing this? Will Hefty bags work? Would garbage pails be better?
posted by small_ruminant to Science & Nature (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by rhizome at 10:01 AM on November 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

Where are you going to put what you remove? There are probably regulations that prevent you from disposing of it like regular garbage.
posted by winston at 10:04 AM on November 9, 2007

No. Please don't do this. You may do more harm than good, and the oil is toxic and very hard to remove from skin/clothing.

And what are you going to do with a garbage bag full of oil? Send it off to the landfill?

I know it's horribly frustrating and heartbreaking - I can barely bring myself to look at the front page of the Chron today. But please make use of the links in your Metatalk thread, fill out volunteer apps, and wait. Try not to rip your hair out in the meantime.

Once the cleanup effort actually organized, I'll probably see you out at Crissy field or Ocean Beach or somewhere. A friend was telling me last night that she was in the Marin Headlands yesterday, and there are oiled birds in Rodeo Lagoon, as well as on the beach.

Anyway. I've emailed someone who runs a program within the GGNRA/NPS about cleanup stuff, and I hope to hear back soon. I'll post what I learn here and in the MeTa thread.
posted by rtha at 10:06 AM on November 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am a spill responder, but I am not your spill responder (nor am I active on this spill).

This is a noble and natural impulse, but I'd urge you to reconsider: the bunker that was spilled is among the least toxic types of oil, but shore workers have reported long-lasting respiratory problems working on this type of spill. An example is here for the Prestige spill in Spain. Handling this stuff can be dangerous to your long-term health. We only get one set of lungs in this life and they're too easy to permenently damage. Unless you really know what you're doing and have the right equipment, I'd be very cautious about this.

A big problem in spill response is seemingly simple "straight-forward" solutions that end up making the problem worse.

Practically, the best thing you can do is make a stink about it. Call you local city councilor, public health person, even the media. This will get the OSC's attention and will get the area attended to more quickly.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 10:13 AM on November 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, rtha, about the GGNRA research. Thanks for the baykeeper link, rhizome. I emailed them, though they seem oddly San Francisco-centric.

As for what to do with the oil, that's why I'm posting. I don't know. I dont' have a truck so I can't haul it to hazardous waste myself. However, SOMEbody will be coming by someday to clean the place up. Or so they promise. I'm sceptical at this point. Why would they be upset if we gave them a head start by filling up some buckets?

I'm not terribly worried about my health, Being frivolous with my health is one of the luxuries of being single and childless and intending to stay that way. And I have a respirator already from working on the boat, and a lot of rain gear. Not sure if that will help.

rtha, I keep hearing about how cleaning up could make things worse but I haven't yet heard how in god's name that could be possible. I promise not to squirt bottles of Dawn on the oil. Besides what possible harm could I do? It's disgusting. It's been 2 days and things are getting worse and worse on the beaches, so I need to do something. Waiting for the authorities obviously isn't the thing to do. I'm infuriated that They (whoever They are) haven't organized volunteer clean ups yet. They KNEW this oil would hit the beaches. We have a couple million poeple around here, many of whom are begging to help. They had 12 + hours of warning. And yet all I hear is "we'll call you."

on preview: thank you Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet. I will do that.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:22 AM on November 9, 2007

I believe I read that the Surfrider foundation has been involved in cleanup, you might try contacting them.
posted by padraigin at 10:27 AM on November 9, 2007

Response by poster: Actually, I don't care about my area specifically. If there's going to be oil spill damage our nasty marina is probably the least environmentally sensitive area to worry about. My thinking was that it's here and handy and I may as well do what I can where I am.

The lagoons are what I'm most worried about. I can't find news on them, but the Bolinas lagoon, for instance, always has thousands of birds in it.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:29 AM on November 9, 2007

Bolinas may well see trouble, since oil has been reported up at Stinson beach already.

Call your Supe's office (if you're in the Marina, it looks like that would be Michela Alioto-Pier) and complain, and ask when clean up will start. Ask your neighbors to do the same. Squeaky wheel, and all that.

Oh - and San Francisco has a 311 number now, like NYC. It's to report all kinds of problems and get info on services.
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2007

Surfrider SF chapter has a command post and are asking volunteers to report to the FT Mason Command Center where they will be assigned to a clean-up detail.
posted by mlis at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2007

Response by poster: Argh! Everything is San Francisco only! I'm so frustrated! Where is the East Bay clean up?!
posted by small_ruminant at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2007

SFist has a round-up of local clean-up efforts.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:31 AM on November 9, 2007

I'm not terribly worried about my health, Being frivolous with my health is one of the luxuries of being single and childless and intending to stay that way.

Sacraficing your health for a good cause is noble, injuring yourself with utterly meaningless symbolic efforts is selfish - the people who care for you will pay the price.

We're talking about 58,000 gallons of oil. Without knowing the exact characteristics of the oil, we can conservatively guess that this is at least 100 tons of highly volatile and hard to isolate material (gasoline is around 737.22 and crude oil is about 800 kilograms per cubic meter). This is a problem that will not be tackled on human scales. The coast guard is surrounding the spill with booms and employing skimmer ships.

Those ships can handle in seconds what you could spend a whole day doing. You're helpless.
posted by phrontist at 11:46 AM on November 9, 2007

Response by poster: phrontist, I don't believe that there are any shortcuts to beach clean up. By the time it's reached the shore it's too late for skimmer ships.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:06 PM on November 9, 2007

Response by poster: But- since I'm online still, it's obvious I'm not out shovelling muck. I'm just emailing and phone-calling the east bay authorities per Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet's suggestion.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:07 PM on November 9, 2007

I don't believe that there are any shortcuts to beach clean up.

Indeed there are not. It's usually done by hand and minimal machinery by those affectionately known as "Bubbahs". Diffculty of access and fire risk are major problems.

By the way, the spill volume is about 220 tonnes. This oil is very close in density to water. The major concerns with this spill are bird pollution, sensitive habitat fouling and the oil sinking. Sinking is a particular risk with this type of spill.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2007

Response by poster: There are only a handful of beaches you can't get to either by foot or kayak, but how you'd haul everything out after I do not know. And what you do about the mudflats I don't know either.

So how do you sign up to be a Bubbah? That's what I want- the grunt work.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:33 PM on November 9, 2007

Access for hindered shores is normally done by barge.

I'm sorry I can't tell you more about getting involved with this small_ruminant. I really think your best bet is to wait on callbacks from the animal rehabilitation volunteer organizations rtha links to above. You can also check with temp agencies around town who supply laborers. That's a common way people are hired for spill cleanup. This spill is not so big that non-professional beach workers will be in big demand.

It looks like MSRC has been hired to manage the spill operations. They're the lead cleanup contractor (any big blue boats in the harbor is them). At worst, you could try calling them and see if they're looking for short-term people. They may be able to tell you how best to get involved that way.
posted by Anonymous 5$ Sockpuppet at 12:53 PM on November 9, 2007

From the email I got from my GGNRA/NPS folks:

(From Oiled Wildlife Care Network, www.owcn.org)
Calls from the general public wanting to volunteer outnumbered bird reports yesterday by about 5-1. Volunteer opportunities for untrained members of the public are going to be very limited over the next few days but here's a critical one: please make a special effort to look for oiled birds in places where the general public doesn't go. Don't approach or touch the birds but call 877-823-6926 and provide the
location (be very specific, GPS coordinates are great), the species, number of birds seen, whether dead or alive, and percentage of oiling. Please leave your name and a contact phone number.
The sooner, the better. The faster we can get these birds stabilized and washed, the higher their chances of recovery and survival.

Under no circumstances should people touch or approach an oiled animal unless they have HAZWOPER training and are properly equipped. If you see someone doing this, please remind them that this is toxic material.

(From Save the Bay)
Our contacts at NOAA and other agencies are working to gather any damage information people are seeing on the ground- and get any info documented with photos and video. They are concerned about oyster and eelgrass impacts in addition to other fish and wildlife impacts. Please contact Natalie Cosentino-Manning at the NOAA Restoration Center if you have information or pictures-
Natalie.c-manning@noaa.gov, please cc mlatta@savesfbay.org.
The lead agency for spill response is CA Dept of Fish and Game- Oil Spill Prevention and Response.

So: go out with your camera and your GPS unit (if you have one), or at least a good map. I know there's concern about effects in places like Vallejo and on up into the Delta. Most people will see obvious effects in places like Ocean beach and Tennessee Valley, but the remoter areas will not get that attention, and response teams still need that info.
posted by rtha at 1:36 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

More from my GGNPC/NPS/GGNRA friends:

Informational Session on Wildlife Care (.pdf)

"The locations of the classes are as follows:
- Marin Headlands Institute, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Building 1033, Sausalito, CA 94965 - Tele: 415.332.5771
Map, directions
Class time: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Harbor Master Richmond Marina, 1340 Marina Way South, Richmond, CA
94804 - Tele: 510.236.1013 Class time: 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The classes are designed not be a community forum for other questions surrounding this incident. It will only be an opportunity for the public to learn about wildlife care during an event and how the public may want to be more involved."
posted by rtha at 5:50 PM on November 9, 2007

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