Beaches appear clean after Bangor naval base spill of oil, water mixture; shellfish harvest still suspended

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

BANGOR — Officials with the Navy, the state Department of Ecology, the Coast Guard and Jefferson County Public Health continued Thursday to monitor the possible effects on wildlife of a 2,000-gallon spill earlier this week of an oil and water mixture at Bangor naval base.

“We haven’t yet seen any oil attached to birds or beaches,” said Lisa Copeland, Ecology spills manager.

“But we are watching the situation very carefully and are most concerned with the spill’s effect on wildlife and the environment.”

After the spill, the state Department of Health issued a shellfish advisory for Hood Canal from Brown Point on the Toandos Peninsula to the Hood Canal Bridge.

State and county health officials warn people not to harvest or eat shellfish from that area until further notice because of the possibility of contamination by pollutants.

It will be weeks before the damage is assessed and the ban on shellfish harvesting possibly lifted, officials said.

Monday’s spill was during a transfer of oily water from a submarine.

An electrical short stalled a pump, and before the pump was shut down, the water overflowed onto the pier and into Hood Canal, Naval Base Kitsap Commanding Officer Capt. Tom Zwolfer said Wednesday.

The oil was light and already mixed with water, which makes it almost impossible to contain and remove, Copeland said, adding that a command center has been set up at Bangor.

Mike Dawson, the county’s environmental health specialist, visited several sites Wednesday and found no visual evidence of contamination.

Jefferson County Public Health officials posted emergency closure signs at the public boat ramp at Hicks County Park, the only public access point on the western shore.

The closure includes Case Shoal, DNR-57B and DNR-59 shellfish beaches that are accessible only by boat.

“We will keep monitoring this from shore and will go down there every day or as needed,” Dawson said.

Mendy Harlowe, the executive director of the Hood Canal Enhancement Group in Belfair, said her office was paying attention to the situation.

“We are concerned about what this will do to the Hood Canal ecosystem and are ready to help with any restoration, cleanup or research related to the spill,” she said.

Copeland said anyone observing oil spillage on beaches or wildlife should phone Ecology’s hotline at 800-222-4737.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 13. 2014 6:37PM
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