Cost of oil spill balloons

The Coast Guard will keep containment booms around the Cannery Pier Hotel for up to a month to help prevent the spread of oil from a nearby fuel storage tank that leaked into the Columbia River.

The oil spill from a fuel storage tank near the Cannery Pier Hotel has cost about $700,000 so far to clean up, the Coast Guard reported.

Capt. Bill Timmons, the commander of Sector Columbia River, and others from the Coast Guard briefed the Port of Astoria Commission and regional officials Tuesday about the cleanup efforts and how they are being financed.

After reports of an oil sheen in the Columbia River late last month, the Coast Guard investigated and found that part of a dilapidated pier west of the hotel had fallen on a fuel tank containing thick oil used to fire the boilers in a cannery.

Cannery Pier management has said the hotel did not know about the tank. The hotel is built on the former site of the Union Fishermen’s Cooperative Packing Co. The tank had been in the ground there since at least 1921, said Capt. Dave Berliner, deputy commander of Sector Columbia River.

Especially high tides helped spread a sheen 5 miles long, with oily debris found as far downriver as Hammond and among the boats at the Port’s West Mooring Basin just west of the tank. Containment booms were placed around the hotel. Contractors removed the tank and emptied it of about 2,200 gallons of Bunker C oil. Cleaning solution Simple Green was used to remove oil from boats.

The Coast Guard worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on environmental assessments, with minimal impact to sediment and no reports of oily wildlife, said Lt. Berit Boyle, a supervisor in the Incident Management Division.

“The oil is sticking to the rocks, and it needs some tides going in and out to weather it down and bring it off the rocks,” said Cmdr. Sean Cashell, chief of response at Sector Columbia River.

A new boom has been placed around the hotel and will remain for another two weeks to a month, and an inner boom around the spill will stay in place for two to three months, Cashell said.

Robert Jacob, the owner of the Cannery Pier Hotel, has been forthcoming since the spill but recently informed the Coast Guard he could no longer pay for the cleanup, Timmons said. The Coast Guard opened the Oil Spill Liability Trust fund to pay for the immediate cleanup.

The hotel is not a regulated waterfront facility with the insurance expected of a marine terminal with a fuel storage tank, Berliner said.

“I think he’s expending all discretionary funds that he has at this point,” Berliner said of Jacob.

After the cleanup is over, an office within the Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center will send investigators to process claims, trying to recover costs from the responsible party, Berliner said. Jacob is working with the center on how people can submit claims for damage, with directions for affected property owners to be posted soon at the marina.

In the audience, former Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen said Jacob was unable to attend the briefing but wanted to thank the Coast Guard for all they have done.

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