Nov 29 2004

Gash found in spill tanker hull

A 20 mile stretch of the Delaware River, closed to traffic since Friday night's major oil spill, could be opened today on a limited, ship by ship basis.

Hundreds ofæenvironmental responders are on the river working to cleanup the spill after the Tsakos Group tanker Athos I lost an estimated 30,000 gallons of heavy crude oil while enroute to the Citgo Facility in Paulsboro, N.J. Friday night.

In keeping with Federal Regulations and company policy, post incident drug and alcohol tests were carried out on all key members of the ship's staff, with negative results. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Divers working below the vessel Sunday morning located a 6 foot by 1 foot punctured tear, breaching the number 7 center cargo tank and number 7 port water ballast tank.

Personnel from the Coast Guard, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, United States Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Tri State Bird Rescue and outside contractors are working together to recover oil, find and treat effected wildlife, and investigate the cause of the accident. Contracted for clean-up operations are The O'Brien's Group, Miller Environmental, Delaware River and Bay Co-Op and Clean Ventures.

Clean up crews have recovered thousands of gallons of oil to date. The spill stretches between just north of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge extending south to the Commodore Barry Bridge. Multiple skimmers are in operation while Coast Guard vessels maintain the established safety zone between the Tacony Palmyra Bridge to the Commodore Barry Bridge closing the river to all commercial and pleasure craft.

"We are extremely satisfied with how well the cleanup effort is progressing. It's because of the dedicated efforts of the federal, state, local and contracted responders that we are expecting to be able to open up the river on a limited basis sometime tomorrow," said Capt. Jonathan Sarubbi, Federal On Scene Commander for the response.

Wildlife experts from Tri State Bird Rescue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and New Jersey and Pennsylvania state wildlife agencies are working diligently to retrieve and treat oiled wildlife. So far hundreds ofæbirds have been affected by the spill. Veterinarians from Tri State Bird Rescue are currently treating birds and a turtle. People who see affected wildlife are asked not to approach them, and shouldæcall the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at 215-365-1558.

Approximately three miles of protective boom has been set up around the vessel and neighboring creeks as a preventive measure to contain further impact to the river and wildlife. Additional protective boom will be set up to points north and south of the areas as oil continues to move due to tides and river currents.

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