An oil spill attributed to a transfer error at a Brooklyn fuel depot has released an estimated 27,000 gallons of diesel fuel into Gravesend Bay and the land around it, BKLYNER discovered, noting that the spill and cleanup response were not publicized.
Interviewing multiple sources involved in the spill response, BKLYNER reports that the spill started before sunrise on Thursday, March 30, at Brooklyn’s Bayside Fuel Depot. BKLYNER says it was tipped off by video and pictures of the spill’s aftermath and extensive cleanup response it obtained. A representative from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed the spill when asked about it.
The Bayside Fuel Oil Depot terminal in Gravesend is a major regional hub dispensing millions of gallons of heating oil a year to trucks and barges for delivery to other businesses and consumers.
The U.S. Coast Guard blamed the spill on “operator error” during a transfer process described by the Department of Environmental Conservation as “tank overflow.” It’s not clear how the error released thousands of gallons of oil.
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA) official Frank Csulak told BKLYNER that most oil spills are the result of human error. Mr. Csulak said the spill was “moderate” in terms of spill volume, but one industry source told BKLYER differently:
“I heard that it was a total disaster with thousands of gallons of diesel fuel pouring into the bay,” the source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Cleanup efforts are being conducted with a joint response from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Fire Department of the City of New York.
Estimates of the spill’s size could go up or down, but it’s the cumulative effect of several oil spills, however small, over time that worries some experts.
“Even though the area is predominantly industrial, there are sensitive ecological sites nearby,” BKLYNER reports. ”The State DEC is monitoring the area’s watershed marches, which had already been remediated from previous oil spills.”
“It doesn’t have to be a catastrophic event — like the Exxon Valdez in 1989 or BP oil spill in 2010, to do long-term damage,” Sean Anderson, Professor of Environmental Science and Resource Management at California State University Channel Islands, told BKLYNER. “But chronic, long-term exposure has real ecological and health impacts in waterways, soil, and air quality.”
Citing DEC records, BKLYNER says it “found at least three other spills for Bayside Depot’s Bay Parkway terminal and four at the Smith Street depot since 1978, affecting groundwater and surface water, and soil.”