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Spill Slimes Udalls Cove
As Spring, 2001 began, two oil spills fouled the waters and coastlines
along the north shore of Long Island. On
about March 20, 2001 a barge carrying heavy fuel oil left a refinery in New
Jersey and traveled through Long Island Sound.
Somewhere along the way the barge received a gash about ten feet below
the waterline and began leaking its cargo into the water, leaving oil slicks on
rocks and tar balls on beaches. The
company that was transporting the barge, Moran Towing of Connecticut, accepted
responsibility and, under the direction of the U.S. Coast Guard, promptly
started a cleanup. Most affected by
the barge leak was a 25-mile stretch of Suffolk County centered on Brookhaven. A
number of birds were killed as a result of the oil spill, and others have been
observed with oil on their feathers.
At first, the barge spill was thought to be the source of oil that began
washing up on the shores of Udalls Cove a few days later. The Coast Guard and Moran�s cleanup contractor mobilized,
using Douglaston�s Memorial Field as their operations base. Booms were stretched across the inlet at the head of the Cove
to try to keep oil from getting back into the marshlands.
Absorbent materials were used to skim oil from the water�s surface, and
crews cleaned oil from the sand and rocks along the shoreline.
Several dumpsters were filled with oil-soaked absorbent materials.
However, chemical �finger print� comparisons of the oil in Udalls
Cove with the oil at the Brookhaven spill showed that the source was not the
same. After further investigation,
the Coast Guard learned that the
Udalls Cove oil spill came from an illegal discharge from an apartment building
in Bayside, on the opposite shore of the Bay.
(The owner is liable for the costs of the cleanup operation.)
Soon after the spill, a number of birds, including ducks, geese and swans
were observed with oil on their feathers; quite a few were caught and cleaned.
Interestingly, a seal was observed on April 1, 2001 (no � this is not
an April Fool�s joke) in the inlet at the head of Udalls Cove, behind
the oil spill boom. Many people
watched while it made its way through the mud and trickle of water left in the
inlet at low tide. Finally the seal
crawled over the boom, but did not immediately head back out towards open water.
On the contrary, it continued to hang around the head of the Cove until some of
the cleanup workers chased it away (for its own protection).
Some have speculated that the boom may have trapped fish in the inlet
stream as the tide went down, and the seal may have gone after these �easy
The Coast Guard reported that the cleanup went well, and indeed the area
looks now as if nothing ever happened. But
the Coast Guard confirmed that some of the heavy oil had seeped under rocks,
making a complete clean up nearly impossible.
Some seepage of this trapped oil back to the water may occur from
time-to-time, especially during warmer months (when the water is warmer, making
any left over oil more mobile and volatile).
Last modified: 02/08/15