Coast Guard Investigating Oil Sheen in Newark Bay

NEW YORK-The Coast Guard is investigating a mystery oil sheen in Newark Bay, N.J., that was discovered at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Coast Guard Sector New York was initially notified by a Sandy Hook pilot aboard the motor vessel HS Bizet. The master of the tug boat James Turecamo subsequently reported a dense sheen of unknown substance near Port Elizabeth and Port Newark at 12 p.m. Other vessel operators also reported sighting the sheen throughout the afternoon.

A Coast Guard Auxiliary overflight confirmed a sheen in the Kill Van Kull extending through Newark Bay and into the Hackensack River. Coast Guard pollution investigators collected samples of a deisel-like product. Investigators also conducted a port sweep to visibly inspect all merchant vessels moored at Port Elizabeth and Port Newark, but were unable to determine a spill source. Reports indicate the sheen is dissipating.

The Coast Guard is asking merchant vessels in the port area to voluntarily provide oil and bilge samples for comparison.

“Coast Guard investigators will examine the samples taken from the site and compare them to samples taken from vessels in the surrounding area,” said Lt. j.g. Elisabeth Murtha, a watch officer at Coast Guard Sector New York. “If we can find a correlation between the sample collected from the water and a sample provided by a merchant vessel, we may take further action.”

Coast Guard Sector New York employs a Vessel Traffic Service that tracks vessel movements similarly to an air traffic control system. Coordinating with the Vessel Traffic Service, pollution investigators will be able to learn which vessels were in the Newark Bay area during the time leading up to the initial sightings of the sheen.

“It’s never a good thing when oil makes its way into our waterways, but we’re fortunate that this is a lighter sheen that dissipates rather quickly and causes minimal environment impact,” said Murtha.

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