Oil From Dec. 22 Spill Seeps Into Strait of Juan de Fuca
Jan. 04, 1989
OCEAN SHORES, Wash. (AP) _ Oil from a 231,000-gallon spill off the central Washington coast nearly two weeks ago has drifted more than 100 miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca separating the state from Vancouver Island.
The spill has killed more than 3,200 sea birds, state officials said, with more expected to die despite hand-cleaning by volunteers. The latest bird cleaning station was set up Tuesday at Neah Bay, on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula.
For residents of Port Angeles on the southern shore of the strait, the appearance of oil brought to mind the December 1985 spill of 239,000 gallons of Alaska crude into the city's harbor when the a tanker ran aground, the worst oil disaster in Washington's waters. Estimates of birds killed in that disaster ranged as high as 4,000.
Oil from the Dec. 22 has been detected as far south as Newport, Ore., and as far north as the coast of British Columbia, a 300-mile stretch. The leak began when a tugboat towing an oil barge punched a hole in the barge in high seas. The hole was plugged and the barge taken to Portland, Ore., for repairs.
Damage to the coastline from the oil and the cleanup, including raking up the beaches and the use of helicopters and other machines, will be hard to measure, said Chuck Janda, Olympic National Park's chief ranger.
Forty beach-cleaners worked Tuesday on northern wilderness beaches soiled over the weekend when storm waves brought in oil thought to have dissipated at sea, said Doug Zimmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Wildlife.
Roughly 5,000 birds have been contaminated by the oil, he said. Volunteers recovered more than 2,600 birds, which are cleaned and kept in holding ponds until natural oils critical to their buoyancy return. But about 800 have died.
Volunteers in the Neah Bay area reported seeing flocks of birds unable to fly but resisting capture. A dead, oil-coated seal also was found near the bay, though the cause of its death was unknown.
Washed and healthy birds are being shuttled from the biggest bird cleanup center at Ocean Shores, near the site of the spill, to Hood Canal, a saltwater inlet 60 miles inland from the coast where the birds won't meet with more oil, Zimmer said.
Thirty cleaned birds were released Monday and Tuesday along Hood Canal, near members of their own species, he said. Last week, 12 birds were released.