Rhode Island oil spill worries environmentalists

Jul 06, 2000 02:00 AM

Environmentalists said they were worried about the effects of a large oil spill that has killed several birds and led to a ban on fishing in one of the most fertile areas of Narragansett Bay. The Coast Guard said 14,000 gallons of oil has spilled out of a barge that collided with a tug. Five swans died and 50 Canadian geese were found blackened with oil. "This is becoming more and more of a serious spill. There may be quite a few injured birds and ailing wildlife around the bay," said John Torgan, Narragansett Bay keeper for the environmental group Save The Bay. "This is the most heavily fished area for lobsters in Narragansett Bay. This will have a serious impact, there's no way around it." The 460-foot-long barge was carrying 3.8 mm gallons of oil.

Coast Guard officials thought the oil would remain near the barge, but there have been reports of oil sheens and tar balls four miles south of the spill. Lobstermen were asked not to pull up their traps; oil has coated many of the buoys that mark the traps.
Stephen Morin, a state Department of Environmental Management administrator, said the bay will remain closed for at least a week, which means losses of $ 100,000 a day for lobstermen. "Anytime oil hits the water we have a disaster both environmentally and economically," Morin said.
Coast Guard officials hoped light wind would lessen the spread of the oil, and crews used vacuum trucks and oil-skimming vessels to contain the spill. Penn Maritime, which owns the boats that collided, took full responsibility for the spill and dispatched 50 workers to clean the shorelines on foot.
The worst oil spill in Rhode Island history came in 1996, when 828,000 gallons fouled the water, killing more than 9 mm lobsters and leading to a five-month ban on fishing. A $ 16 mm settlement to restore the Block Island Sound environment damaged by the spill was announced.

Source: AP
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