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Winds Send More Goo Onto California’s Oil-Stained Beaches

February 14, 1990

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ Blustery winds pushed more goo onto California beaches Tuesday as reinforcements joined the battle to sop up the oily onslaught a week after a tanker spill fouled the coast.

The cleanup crew was tripled to 1,120 workers on six miles of oil-stained beach and another 300 workers were being trained to handle the crude oil invasion. Fifteen miles of beach in Southern California remained closed.

Meanwhile, the 811-foot tanker American Trader docked for repairs.

A Newport Beach man filed one of the first lawsuits in connection with the spill.

The class-action lawsuit, filed by Chet Holifield in federal court in Los Angeles, seeks damages and money for economic losses. Among the defendants are the ship’s owner and the company that chartered the tanker.

Winds combined with increasing surf to push new bands of thick crude ashore, threatening wildlife sanctuaries. The 400,000-gallon spill has killed 86 birds and coated 261 others with oil.

The National Weather Service said onshore winds to 40 mph could develop by Thursday.

Up to 1,000 grunion have also been killed by the spill, state Department of Fish and Game spokesman Pat Moore said.

The tiny fish died during a weekend ″run″ along the Orange County coastline, Moore said. Grunion come to the edge of the shore during such runs to lay eggs in the soft sand. Any eggs left behind in the oil-soaked sand were not expected to hatch, he said.

Huntington Beach Mayor Tom Mays had asked Gov. George Deukmejian to declare a state of emergency.

But Eileen Baumgardner, assistant director of the Office of Emergency Services, said the declaration was not immediately necessary because the cleanup was being handled by private industry.

″As far as we can tell, there are no needs that are not being met,″ she said late Monday. Huntington Beach is about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Waves of grimy crude oil spilled by the American Trader rolled onto Bolsa Chica State Beach, leaving the beach coated with a layer of crude 2 inches thick in some areas.

″I’m disgusted,″ surfer Bill Casper said while watching the black tide roll in at his favorite surf spot near Huntington Beach Pier. ″It’s going to affect the beach for years. There will be tar on the beach for years.″

On a bike path further north near Bolsa Chica, Lee Buratti, 40, of Dana Point was taking a break in training for the wheelchair race in next month’s Los Angeles Marathon. He complained of the petroleum stench.

″The fumes were much too much. I could feel it in my lungs. It actually hurt a little and it slowed my pace,″ said Buratti.

But Buratti said spills were the price of the Los Angeles lifestyle. ″Let’s face it, our life revolves around oil. We have to have it.″

The oily pads, absorbent pompons and truck loads of gooey sand were taken to a seven-acre site near the Newport Beach sewage treatment plant, said Tony Kozlowski of British Petroleum America Inc., which owns the Alaksa North Slope oil and chartered the ship.

He said the muck can be picked up easier once it’s on the beach.

″When it gets on shore we can deal with it and clean it up. When it’s out there it’s just a waiting game,″ Kozlowski said.

″It’s awful,″ said Robert August, who starred in the surfing movie ″Endless Summer″ and now owns a surf shop in Huntington Beach. ″It’s pretty lousy for business. All that’s there now are reporters and politicians.″

Businessman Ross Roberts, 48, visiting from Yakima, Wash., for a boat show, speculated that tourism would likely take a beating just as it did after the Mount St. Helens eruption in his state a decade ago.

″It’s not going to be good for the area, all this advertising about oily beaches,″ Roberts said. ″There was the same effect in Washington after Mount St. Helens because of all the ash that came down.

The patched-up American Trader moved from a Long Beach Harbor anchorage and tied up at an Arco dock on Tuesday morning to unload its remaining cargo of crude oil and to begin repairs of hull punctures.

The oil leaked from the vessel on Feb. 7 when the ship apparently ran over its own anchor while mooring in shallow water at an oil pipeline mooring two miles offshore.

The slick meandered away from the beaches for five days with the help of offshore winds and calm seas. Containment booms and sand berms kept the oil out of marinas and the ecologically sensitive Bolsa Chica Wetlands.

But potential damage to the reserve, home for the endangered California brown pelican and a stop for thousands of migratory birds and marine life, was still a concern.

″Birds are leaving the wetlands and going to the ocean and bringing the oil back to the estuary,″ said Patrick Moore of the state Department of Fish and Game. Oily residue on the birds could kill eggs.

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