Oil spill threatens fish, wildlife Truck was delivering fuel to residence in Cape St. Claire

Mechanical breakdown

Environment agency, Fire Department, Coast Guard respond

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 that filled the air 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.

Booms also were placed at the entrance of the cove to prevent the oil from escaping the two-mile stretch of the tributary, which leads into the Magothy River and then into the bay.

A & A Environmental Services, a private contractor from Linthicum, was set to take over the job after the emergency crews contained the oil in a secure area.

The Maryland Department of Environment responded to 899 calls for spills statewide from July 1, 1995, to June 30, said Alan Williams, chief of the emergency response division.

jTC Williams said Husky Heating could spend between $25,000 and $30,000 on the cleanup effort. He added that MDE will charge the Catonsville-based company about $1,000 for the spill van and two emergency response trucks.

Although MDE does not issue criminal citations for endangering the environment, the department's Oil Control Division may fine the company for the damages. The Coast Guard also could levy fines, Williams said.

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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