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Globs of Oil Gum Up Equipment, But Shoreline Damage Minimal With PM-Oil Spill, Bjt

June 26, 1989

CLAYMONT, Del. (AP) _ Workers cleaning up a Delaware River oil spill of up to 800,000 gallons used rakes and even their hands this morning to pick up gobs of oil so big and heavy they jammed skimming machinery.

The oil came from a Uruguayan tanker that ran aground near here early Saturday just south of the Pennsylvania line. The spill came less than 24 hours after big spills in Texas and Rhode Island.

The cause of the accident was under investigation.

Officials said that the congealed oil is difficult to clean up but has caused little damage to the Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey coast because the gobs tend to bounce along the shoreline rather than spread out.

The brownish blobs range in size from a football to 2 feet or more and have the consistency of roofing tar, said Coast Guard spokesman Rick Woods. They’re so gooey they can be picked up by hand.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Dave Oney said the oil will have little effect on wildlife. ″It is so solidified, fish can swim around it and a bird would have to fly right into it to get hurt,″ he said.

Officials said they could not account for at least 800,000 gallons from the tanker, which was carrying 18 million gallons of refined industrial heating oil. But they said it is doubtful the full amount is in the water, and there is no sign much of it has sunk to the bottom of the river.

The cleanup ran into problems because skimmers called in were unable to deal with blobs floating in the water. Instead, the blobs were pushed toward shore with booms and then raked in.

David Gartin of J & J Spill Service of Norristown, Pa., manager of the cleanup, said the job would probably take more than a week.

Globs of oil have been spotted as far north as Ridley Park, Pa., on the outskirts of Philadelphia; and as far south as New Castle, Del., about 30 miles downstream. Some oil has also washed onto the New Jersey side of the Delaware River.

The Presidente Rivera was refloated Sunday and taken to its original destination, the Sun Co. refinery in nearby Marcus Hook, Pa., where most of the remaining oil was loaded into storage tanks.

Nelson said that the ship was owned by the Uruguayan government, which is assuming full financial responsibility for the spill.

Delaware wildlife officials worked to protect Pea Patch Island, in the river south of New Castle, which is home to several species of nesting shorebirds. Crews laid 1,700 feet of oil-retaining booms along the island.

Todd Nelson, a Coast Guard spokesman in Philadelphia, said that because of the weather, water conditions and oil consistency, the fuel is not breaking up.

″The water isn’t particularly choppy and there isn’t much heavy wave action, so the oil moves back and forth with the tide,″ he said.

Nelson said cleanup contractors have hired more than 250 temporary employees and the state of Delaware has agreed to send 300 National Guardsmen.

″The system will be operating tomorrow at the maximum capacity possible,″ he said Sunday. ″As we have never done this type of operation before, it will take some time to gear up.″

Coast Guard Lt. Jim Weakley and Gov. Michael Castle said they were unable to confirm reports of a mechanical problem aboard the ship.

Drug and alcohol tests were performed on all personnel involved in navigating the ship. The results were not immediately available.

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