Coast Guard Working To Contain Fuel From Sunken Barge

TREASURE ISLAND (CBS SF) — The U.S. Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials on Friday were working to contain fuel and oil leaking from a barge that sank overnight during Thursday’s storm.

Coast Guard responders and representatives from Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response were at the scene of the capsized and sunken 112-foot freight barge Vengeance. There are concerns the barge could start leaking both diesel fuel and hydraulic oil into San Francisco Bay.

The barge is located south of the Bay Bridge.

BART Officials said the barge had a crane on it and was under contract with the transit agency. It sunk at around 12:22 a.m. Fortunately, there was no one on board at the time the vessel sunk.

Responders are currently evaluating and executing cleanup strategies in an effort to prevent the possible release of 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 300 gallons of lube oil.

Video shot by Chopper 5 revealed a sheen in the water visible in the area where the barge sank. The large sheen of oil can be seen floating near Yerba Buena Island.

The Coast Guard put in a yellow containment boom around the spill to prevent it from spreading, but some of it has still drifted north pass the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

“There’s going to be divers that will go down to plug any vents,” explained Cody Staneart, the Chief Marine Science technician with the U.S. Coast Guard. “We trying to come up with a plan to remove the fuel tank and remove any threat of pollution.”

From Chopper 5, the oil appeared to be coming up from one spot.

It’s unknown how long it will take divers to cap the leak.

“We always move at the speed of safe,” said Staneart. “We have to keep the public safe, our responders safe, and we have to protect the environment. So it might take a little more time if weather conditions change.”

BART engineers are also monitoring the barge closely. It was being used to work on the Transbay Tube.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost says the barge is resting about 1,000 feet away from the tube.  But engineers have a lot of questions.

“That it’s very stable; that it’s not going to drift toward the tube. That is our biggest concern right now,” said Trost. “Even so, the tube is buried under 25 feet of sand.”

Officials suspect weather played a factor in the barge sinking.

“[There were] gale force winds yesterday and the bay was very choppy,” said Staneart.

The Coast Guard says it may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean the spill. The company that was hired by BART, which owns the barge, will be responsible to pay for it.

The owners of the sunken barge have contracted Global Diving and Salvage to assess the salvage response and environmental impact.

Coast Guard crews are enforcing a safety zone in the area to ensure the safety of responders in addition to issuing a safety marine information broadcast to local mariners.

The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund has been opened for $50,000 for pollution mitigation.

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