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Home News Human Error Caused LA Oil Spill

Human Error Caused LA Oil Spill

By Mike Botica, Editorial Intern

On the morning of March 31, watchmen for the U.S. Coast Guard received reports of an oily-water substance leaking from a holding tank on the Vopak Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.  

POLA did not want to comment on the matter, stating that such comments would be handled by the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard representative, Sondra-Kay Kneen, said investigators believe that the spill took place the previous night, but conditions were too dark to make a report until hours later.  

This was the second oil spill at the port in almost three weeks. The prior spill was reported on March 13 at Berth 198 in Wilmington. The Coast Guard reported that a faulty pipe on the Istra Ace was the culprit in that spill.

Another spill also took place at the sister Port of Long Beach, where oil water leaked from a well this past January.  Over 2000 gallons of oil water were spilled onshore at the Port of Long Beach, and an unknown amount was released into storm drains.

The March 31 oil spill happened after a breach that took place when, TULA, a Mexican oil and chemical tanker ship that was docked at the Vopak Terminal, was carrying large quantities of bunker fuel. Keen reported that most of the oil was contained on the pier.

According to sources close to Vopak Terminal, who asked their names not be used for this article, an unidentified subcontractor didn’t turn a valve properly, causing the leak of at least 20 gallons of bunker fuel into the POLA.  

This was confirmed by another Coast Guard spokeswoman Andrea Anderson, who said the spill was due to an open valve that leaked an oily-water mixture into the harbor.  

Updating previous reports from the Coast Guard media/press, Anderson reduced the spillage from initial reports of around 95 percent to 75 to 80 percent contained on the pier, before cleanup efforts began.

Oil spill response organizations, such as the National Response Corp., worked to clean the spill using oil skimmers and absorbent pads with the help of the Coast Guard.  

The Coast Guard specifically used oil containment booms to clean the spill from the harbor.  A court order precluded the tanker ship from leaving the harbor. However, TULA was allowed to depart from POLA April 4, once the spill was fully contained.

It is on its way back to the Lazaro Cardenas harbor in Mexico.

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