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San Juan County's view of diesel/oil spill situation

SAN JUAN COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT MEDIA RELEASE As many San Juan County residents are aware, yesterday's sinking of a 49 foot fishing boat off of the West side of San Juan Island has required an ongoing pollution response.

Sunday evening, approximately 30 hours after the sinking of the fishing boat, a boom was set to keep the oil/diesel out of the bay at San Juan County Park. An offer by an experienced private citizen to set a boom during low tide had been rebuffed 14 hours earlier. Photo by David Blackshaw

U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest and Washington Department of Ecology are lead agencies for the operation, including sharing of information with public, but given the obvious concern of the local community, we want to pass on our sense of things. Below is a summary of what is known, along with a little local knowledge/interpretation thrown in. All members of the crew of the boat were rescued safely.

There is the potential of there being approximately 2600 gallons of diesel fuel on board. Depth of water and location make it a very difficult location for booming to contain the fuel that is leaking from the vessel. At this time it is not known if the vessel and fuel tanks are intact, but it is suspected that the vessel remained intact as it sank.

Coast Guard and Islands' Oil Spill Association (IOSA) personnel have been on scene since last night, monitoring for recoverable fuel product.

Coast Guard surveys via boat, drone, and helicopter report significant patches of rainbow sheen on the west side of San Juan Island, however quantities being seen do not appear to be recoverable at this time. There are areas where the smell of diesel fuel is noticeable. While there is not danger to the public at this time due to fumes or product in the water, it is suggested that boaters steer clear of the waters right along the shore on the west side of San Juan Island at this time.

-Small boats are on scene with absorbent material to try to soak up any fuel that can be recovered. Note due to the volatility of the fuel, recovering diesel is difficult, especially on a day with large tidal exchange like today.

-IOSA has staged equipment on shore near the response in order to replace depleted supplies as needed.

-The Coast Guard has authorized and activated a large salvage operation led by Global Diving & Salvage, Inc.. They should be on scene later today with barges, fuel storage, and personnel. Once the scene and vessel have been secured, specialized divers will assess the sunken vessel and the potential for removing remaining fuel from the boat.

-A large group of agencies and non-profits including The Whale Museum, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and others have been monitoring the location of local marine mammals and are coordinating on the response should orcas approach the impacted area. While the southern resident orcas were close late yesterday, they were not seen in the impacted area, and appear to be far away from San Juan Island today.

-The situation will continue to be monitored closely and San Juan County will provide logistical support to the responding agencies as needed.

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