C&D spill deemed 'modest' Oil cleanup expected to be done in a week

September 20, 1993|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,Staff Writer

Cleanup crews worked yesterday to capture oil-soaked ducks and to remove oil from boats and beaches in the Elk River and the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, fouled early Saturday when hundreds of gallons spilled from a barge.

Officials said the cleanup may take a week and had no cost estimates. But the damage to wildlife and the Chesapeake Bay should be modest, officials said.

"In terms of impact, I think they were lucky, and they responded very quickly," said Joyce Ponsell, who surveyed the spill for Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, a nonprofit organization based in Newark, Del.

She and colleagues spent three hours yesterday unsuccessfully trying to catch seven oil-soaked mallard ducks, which she said would die if not cleaned. Workers for Tri-State, which has responded to oil spills from Florida to New York this year, will return today for another try, she said.

Ms. Ponsell said she found no evidence to support earlier reports that an osprey and an eagle might have been caught in the spill.

John K. Chlada, an official of the Maryland Department of the Environment who coordinated the state's response to the spill, said most of the oil appeared to have come ashore along the Elk River in Cecil County between Town Point and Courthouse Point, a two-mile stretch of the river south of the canal. A dark line of contamination covered beaches, rocks and shrubbery at the high-tide point, he said.

"We've done a door-to-door survey, and most people have said, 'As long as they get my beach clean, as long as they get my boat clean, I'll be satisfied,' " Mr. Chlada said.

Clean Harbors Inc., a cleanup contractor hired by the barge owner, Christiana Marine Service Corp., went to work shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday, when the leak was reported. More than 30 people were at work yesterday along the fouled shore, Mr. Chlada said.

Based on a helicopter survey of the canal, it was estimated that less than 1,000 gallons of the No. 6 industrial fuel oil had leaked, Mr. Chlada said. That was less than one-fifth the amount officials initially feared had poured into the canal and adjacent rivers.

The Christiana barge was transporting 54,000 gallons of oil from Baltimore to a DuPont Co. plant at Deepwater, N.J., by way of the canal, which links the Chesapeake and Delaware bays. Crew members alerted officials to a possible leak when they docked at Deepwater and noticed the barge was listing.

The canal was closed from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, but ship traffic was light and there was no major backup, said Al Dias, marine traffic controller for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the canal.

Don Glenn, vice president of Christiana, said his company took responsibility for the spill. "Everything that can be done is being done to return the area to the condition it was in before the spill," he said.

Residents can call the company at (302) 571-9187 to report damage claims, he said.

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