ALAMEDA — Efforts to clean the oil that washed up at Robert Crown Memorial State Beach have been hampered by a sewage spill, which means the beach will not likely re-open until Thursday, according to a park spokeswoman.

The spill occurred shortly before noon today on Kittyhawk Road, a residential street that connects with Shore Line Drive, which borders the beach.

"It's not a terribly big spill," said Shelly Lewis of the East Bay Regional Park District. "We were hoping to open the beach this afternoon. But we've decided to hold off for safety reasons until the spill is cleaned."

Meanwhile, the origin of the tar balls and oil sheen discovered Tuesday along a half-mile of stretch of the beach Tuesday afternoon remained unknown this morning.

"We are still checking into it," said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Erik Swanson. "It's possible that we could have the results this afternoon. But it could also take as long as tomorrow."

Beachgoers began reporting the oil about 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

Crews from at least three agencies responded, and they immediately posted notices closing the park, officials said.

Along with the Coast Guard and park district, the state Department of Fish and Game and the Office of Spill Prevention and Response are overseeing the clean-up.

Many people initially speculated the oil was from the Cosco Busan, the container ship that dumped 58,000 gallons of crude oil into the Bay in November after crashing into the Bay Bridge.


Advertisement

Investigators said today, however, it was unlikely, noting that the oil in Alameda was soaking into the sand, which did not happen with the oil from the container ship.

The spill from the ship was linked to the deaths of more than 10,000 birds.

After the discovery of the oil on Tuesday, crews installed a boom at the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, which is located at the east end of the park and a home to aquatic birds and salt marsh creatures. Among the wildlife in the area is the Clapper Rail sea bird.

Swanson said the tar balls covered about 1 percent of a 1.5-foot wide band of beach for about a quarter-mile. The balls range from about the size of a dime to a quarter and were first reported by windsurfers.

The oil was also fresh and runny, according to the Coast Guard.

For information on the closure and when the beach will re-open, call 510-544-2201.

Reach Peter Hegarty at phegarty@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-748-1654.