Oil spill in Cape St. Claire threatens fish and wildlife

July 03, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF Staff writer TaNoah Morgan contributed to this report.

A mechanical breakdown on an oil truck yesterday sent hundreds of gallons of heating oil gushing down a sewage drain and spilling into Deep Creek Cove, a thriving breeding ground for many species of Chesapeake Bay fish and wildlife.

A Husky Heating Oil Co. driver was delivering 300 gallons to a home in the 900 block of Barracuda Cove Court in Cape St. Claire about 12: 30 p.m. when he saw oil spilling out of a pump at the front of his truck, county fire officials said.

About 800 gallons of oil poured into the street, down a storm drain and into the water, leaving an oily slick on everything in sight for hundreds of yards.

The major spill has the potential to kill a wide variety of fish, from striped bass and striped perch to bay anchovies. Wildlife such as blue herons and beavers also could be affected, as well as eagles and osprey that feed on fish, said Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials.

"Obviously, when you have a spill in an area that is considered a nursery for any species of animal or fish, it will have an impact of some extent," said DNR spokesman Richard McIntire. "Hopefully, it is cleaned up well, we can reduce that impact."

Residents of the community on the Broadneck peninsula watched as cleanup crews worked for hours to contain the slick. Many kept children and pets indoors to prevent them from becoming ill from the strong fumes or from swallowing any oil on the ground.

"It's a crying shame," said Melanie Dands, 40, whose home in the 800 block of Harbor View Terrace sits along the water. "It's going to kill everything. We watched crabs sinking to the bottom and the fish rising to the top. I think we're looking at years' worth of destruction here."

Responding almost immediately to the call were emergency and hazardous material crews from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard and the Maryland Department of the Environment that worked for hours, trying to contain the spill before predicted evening thunderstorms arrived.

About 45 minutes after they reached the scene, firefighters pulled on protective suits and jumped into the water with orange booms to surround the spill and white absorbing pads to soak up the oil.

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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