Divers trying to recover oil from sunken fishing boat in San Juans

Aug 15, 2022, 5:51 PM
(KIRO 7)...
(KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

A fishing boat that sank over the weekend off San Juan Island is creating a cleanup headache for state and federal responders.

The 49-foot Aleutian Isle sank on Saturday near Sunset Point on the west side of San Juan Island, just north of Lime Kiln Point State Park, after hitting rocks. All five people aboard were rescued before the boat sank to a depth of 100 feet.

Now the cleanup effort is underway by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and other partners to stop the boat’s fuel from polluting the Puget Sound.

Coast Guard responds to small oil spill near San Juan Island

Ty Keltner, communications manager for the Department of Ecology’s Spills Program, said the fishing boat was carrying 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel, along with 100 gallons of other types of oil. Some of this leaked out when the boat sank, creating a 2-mile-long sheen on the water.

On Monday, contracted divers went down to try to recover as much of the onboard fuel as they could. Keltner said in the early afternoon on Monday that the plan was for the divers to “dive down and tap those tanks, remove the remaining fuel onboard.”

“It’s a challenging operation because the water is very deep,” he said.

Boaters should be aware that as long as this work is going on, there is a 1,000-yard safety zone around the area that they cannot enter.

As for recovering the oil that spilled on the surface, Keltner said because of the strong current, it was hard to collect the oil at the time it spilled. However, absorbent booms have been deployed in the water to prevent the spill from spreading further.

“We’ve got some very strong tides, we’ve got a lot of current that runs through that area, so it does spread out, diesel will dissipate. There are some impacts to shoreline, but we try and prevent those as much as we can by pre-booming off areas that could be affected,” Keltner explained.

He said there were no reports of wildlife being harmed by the spill thus far. Washington State Department of Fish and Game crews are on site to divert Southern Resident orcas from the area, if needed. So far, the intelligent whales have stayed far away.

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Divers trying to recover oil from sunken fishing boat in San Juans