Crews Pulling Leaky Tug From San Francisco Bay

Oil sheen atop water alerts passerby

Crews are working to pull a sunken tug boat from the waters off  Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, where it has already left its mark on the environment.

A pedestrian reported seeing an oil sheen on the water at about noon Monday, according to  the U.S. Coast Guard. The caller said the U.S.S. Wenonah, a decommissioned naval tug moored to the east side of the island, was sitting low in the water, and that oil and debris could be seen in the water nearby.

The oil sheen, which has spread as far as the Berkeley Marina, has been contained, but clean-up crews expect it will take a few more days to absorb all of the oil.

The Coast Guard responded with a pollution response team, a 41-foot utility boat from Station San Francisco, a 65-foot cutter from Aids to Navigation Team San Francisco, the Coast Guard Cutter Tern, and a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station San Francisco after receiving the call. They have contracted a private company to clean up the sheen.

Coast Guard investigators will be at the scene while California Fish and Game representatives monitor the impact to local wildlife and the environment. So far, there is no report of any negative impact to local sensitive marine sites.

Tim Parker, founder and president of Parker Diving and Salvation, the company contracted to clean up the sheen, said he estimated 25 gallons of diesel and five to 10 gallons of lube oil were spilled. It might not seem like much, but the oil is very dangerous for the ecologically-sensitive area.

He said the oil has been contained in about 500 feet of containment boom, and now 450 feet of absorbent boom are being used to clean  up the leak.

Parker said his company gets calls to clean up pollution caused by sunken vessels two or three times per month, and the current sheen is a medium-sized job. He said there's not anything complicated or unique about its cleanup.

"It's pretty straightforward," Parker said from the site of the spill. "There might be some leakage for the next couple of days, but it will  probably work its way out. We will monitor it a couple of times per day."

The Coast Guard provided the initial cleanup materials for the sheen, including absorbent boom and an 87-foot patrol boat in addition to the utility boat and helicopter.

The Wenonah was taken out of commission in 1974 after being used  by the U.S. Navy as a harbor tug for 33 years.

The spill is minor in contrast to the November 2007 incident when the Cosco Busan bumped into the Bay Bridge and ripped a hole in the ship's hull, dumping more than 50,000 tons of bunker oil into San Francisco Bay.

The ship's pilot, John Cota, plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges of pollution and killing migratory birds. He was sentenced to 10 months in jail and 200 hours of community service. The company that owned the ship agreed to pay $10 million fine under a deal reached with prosecutors.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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