Coast Guard identifies responsible source for Charleston-area oil spill

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Coast Guard identified a responsible source Tuesday for the oil spill that affected Charleston-area beaches with tar balls and oil debris beginning Oct. 20.

Forensic oil pollution laboratory results, coupled with eye witness accounts, led Coast Guard investigators to conclude that the 600-foot cargo vessel John F is responsible for the spill.

The John F’s owner was formally notified by the Coast Guard’s National Pollution Fund Center Thursday of possible liability for this incident.

The master of the John F reported a 10-gallon oil spill to the National Response Center Oct. 19. The spill occurred during a transfer of heavy bunker fuel from a barge to the ship at the anchorage off Crab Bank in Charleston Harbor. The vessel owners hired a local response contractor to clean up oil spilled on the vessel’s decks and hull. According to witness reports, at the time the contractor arrived there was no oil seen in the water.

The shoreline clean-up started after the Coast Guard received several reports of oil and tar balls in the water and on local beaches Oct. 20. Tar balls eventually impacted Sullivan’s Island, Fort Sumter, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island and Edisto Island. The wide area impacted by tar balls is consistent with a spill of up to a few hundred gallons.

No further details regarding this spill can be released due to the on-going investigation.

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