Coast Guard responds to sheen in Pillar Point

SAN FRANCISCO – The Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response will return to Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, Calif. today, to commence operations to secure the source of a diesel leak that occurred from a sunken recreational vessel yesterday.

The Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response (DFG-OSPR), Pillar Point Harbormaster’s Office, and CalFire responded to the report of a sheen inside Pillar Point Harbor yesterday at approximately 9:00 a.m.  The initial investigation determined that the source of the sheen was from a sunken house boat called “The Gypsy” that sank while at anchor in the harbor approximately six weeks ago.

“The Gypsy,” a 52-foot house boat, sunk approximately one half-mile off the shore of Pillar Point in appoximately 15-feet of water.  At that time, investigation by the Coast Guard determined that the vessel presented no immediate or significant threat to the environment based upon statement from the owner that there was little fuel on board.  In addition, at the time of sinking, the vessel did not produce a significant sheen.  The owner stated he had approximately 30 gallons of red-dye diesel on board, which appeared to be sealed in the tanks.  Salvage of the vessel, the responsibility of the vessel’s owner, was to be completed by the owner after the sinking six weeks ago.

After substantial leaking began to occur on Thursday, approximately 200-feet of containment and absorbent boom were deployed within the harbor, including around a commercial abalone farm and along the nearby beaches.  There is no confirmed shoreline impact of the sheen.

The Coast Guard federalized the case yesterday, based on this increased threat.

“When circumstances originally appeared stable, we were willing to let the responsible party take fiscal and logistical care of the situation himself,” according to Lieutenant Commander Gus Bannan, Chief of Incident Management for Coast Guard Sector San Francisco.  “Deterioration of the on-scene conditions and increased threat to the local environment has made it necessary for us to take over,” he added.

The removal of any hazardous material will now be funded through the Coast Guard by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a Federally maintained billion-dollar fund established as a funding source to pay removal costs and damages resulting from oil spills or substantial threats of oil spills to navigable waters of the United States.

No harmed wildlife have been reported, but DFG-OSPR scientists will be monitoring for impacts to birds and other marine life in the area.  In response to the diesel in the environment, the Office of Health Hazard Assessment issued an advisory to anglers and shellfish harvesters avoidance of fishing or harvesting from the shoreline inside the breakwater to Pillar Point.  They also advised to avoid fishing in areas where there is a visible sheen on the water, and that no one should consume fish or shellfish with an oily smell or feel.

One of the Coast Guard’s approved pre-negotiated contractor’s, Parker Diving and Salvage from Sausalito, Calif., has been brought in to assist in the removal, clean-up, and salvage of the vessel.  Operations to raise the vessel will begin today.

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