It Was a Dark and Rainy Weekend…

…and central California was finally getting some much needed rain! Instead of sitting by the fire drinking hot chocolate and reading a good book some of us were in Newark, looking for oiled mallards. The “Redwood Coast Lube Oil” spill, as it is officially called, was the result of 100-200 gallons of synthetic motor oil entering a storm drain from a tanker truck during pumping operations on Feb. 6. Fortunately, the product was able to be contained within three ditches and did not reach Plummer Creek. This was very good news because this creek dumps into the south bay and could have affected California Clapper Rail habitat, as well as endangering other birds that feed and inhabit that area.


Storm drain with “plug” in culvert, blocking entrance into Plummer Creek (not shown). Pump pipe also visible. (Photo by K. Mills-Parker)

One method that the cleanup crews used to protect Plummer Creek was a “plug”, literally a large balloon-like object that blocked water from entering the culvert from the storm drains and into Plummer Creek. Because of the rain we were finally getting, there was  danger of the water level reaching the top of the storm drain and spilling water (and with it, product) into other areas, including Plummer Creek. Once again, OSPR and the cleanup crews dodged this bullet by using a pump to take clean water out of the storm drain and empty it into Plummer Creek. They made sure they were getting clean water by placing the pump inlet low in the water (as the product was very light and floating on the top water layer).

One oiled mallard was collected on Friday and taken to the San Francisco Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in Fairfield, but died en route. Additionally, there was a report of three other potentially oiled mallards, so the OWCN was activated early Saturday morning. Susan McCarthy (from International Bird Rescue), Gerry McChesney (from USFWS), and I worked with Josh Curtis (from OSPR) to try to locate these birds; however, we were unable to find them.

Thanks to all who helped with this spill.


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