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. The terminal is at berth 189 of the Port of Los Angeles in Wilmington.
Coast Guard representative Sondra-Kay Kneen said investigators believe 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. POLA spokesmen did not want to comment on that spill, stating that comments would be handled by the Coast Guard.
Another spill also took place at the sister Port of Long Beach, where oil water leaked from a well this past January. More than 2,000 gallons of oil water were spilled onshore at the Port of Long Beach. Some of that spill ended up in the storm drains.
The March 31 oil spill happened after a breach on TULA, a Mexican oil and chemical tanker that was carrying large quantities of bunker fuel while docked at the Vopak Terminal. Kneen said 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. The clean up cost some $1.4 million according to one source. The subcontractor has been removed from working at the terminal.
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.
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 headed back to the Lazaro Cardenas harbor in Mexico.