Tanker Crash Spilled 'Nastiest' Oil Into SF Bay

58,000 gallons dumped in collision with bridge; contamination could linger decades
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2007 9:46 AM CST
Officials aboard a pilot boat inspect a Bay Bridge tower that was hit by a 900-foot freighter passing under the bridge in heavy fog in San Francisco, Wednesday Nov. 7, 2007. The Coast Guard says there's...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – A massive container ship traveling in dense fog crashed into the San Francisco’s Bay Bridge yesterday, spilling 58,000 gallons of noxious oil lethal to marine life. It was unclear whether mechanical or human error was at fault, but a spill cleaner said the bunker fuel oil is “the nastiest stuff around” and breaks down particularly slowly, the Chronicle reports.

Environmental experts said the oil, spotted by midday many miles up the coast, could persist in the sediment for decades. Only 30% of birds and mammals exposed to oil survive a year, and fish and plant life will also be affected in the long term. Thirteen organizations are probing why the ship, larger than the Titanic, rammed the bridge.