Oil Slick Fouling Washington Beaches, Killing Birds, Put at 168,000 Gallons
In its first official estimate, the Coast Guard said Saturday that at least 168,000 gallons of heavy black crude oil leaked from a ruptured barge last week, soiling 150 miles of Washington beaches and killing more than 2,000 sea birds.
Mark Stewart of the state Division of Emergency Management said up to 231,000 gallons may have been spilled, but the Coast Guard was having trouble determining the exact amount because of the difficulty of separating the oil from the water in the barge’s ruptured tank.
The barge was ruptured when it collided with its tug Dec. 23 in heavy seas off of Ocean Shores.
The heaviest slick was about 40 miles long in the Ocean Shores area, but Stewart said “pepperings"--droplets--and slicks of the oil have been found from the northern beaches of Oregon all the way north to the Makah Indian Reservation on the tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
“Some of the beaches in the La Push area (south of the reservation) are heavily oiled, so we will move clean up operations to the Forks area Sunday,” Stewart said.
He said 375 soiled sea birds were picked up by volunteers Saturday, the largest collection in one day since rescue efforts began. Another 300 dead birds also were found, he said.
So far, the spill has killed at least 2,000 birds, including 350 that were killed Friday night because they were too injured from the oil and subsequent cleansing operations to be returned to the wild, Stewart said.