San Francisco donates equipment to help control BP oil spill 

San Francisco donated outdated and ineffective oil-spill containment equipment to assist with cleanup and control efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil-containment booms failed to control tens of thousands of gallons of fuel that gushed into San Francisco Bay from the Cosco Busan container ship in 2007.

The booms are long, white, absorbent, floating barriers that were designed prior to the 1970s to corral oil spilled on water.

The Port of San Francisco and Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that 5,000 feet of donated boom was sent from The City to Louisiana on Friday to help control BP’s unprecedented oil spill.

“The need to offer aid and support has only grown this weekend as efforts to stop the flow of oil from the Gulf floor were dealt another setback,” Newsom said in a statement.

Replacement equipment is expected to be received by The City within five weeks to ensure that it is ready to help respond to any spills in the Bay.

Much of the fuel that spilled from the Cosco Busan simply washed over or under the booms after they were deployed in the Bay in late 2007.

The shallow estuary’s notoriously strong currents and tides worsened the problem.

“If that current is more than 1 knot,” Marine Spill Response Corp. official Steve Ricks said during a 2007 Harbor Safety Committee hearing, “then that boom is going to tip over, and oil in the water will either go over or under.”

Despite the ineffectiveness of the outdated technology, it remains the front line of defense employed by scores of government agencies to help control oil spills in the United States.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, authored legislation after the Cosco Busan oil spill that would have provided $5 million in research grants to develop new oil spill response technology.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the legislation, which would have been funded with oil taxes.

“This is unnecessary,” Schwarzenegger wrote in the veto message. “Using this money for an ongoing program depletes the (Oil Spill Response Trust) fund and sets a bad precedent that undermines its purpose: to ensure that there are always funds available for expedient response to an oil spill in the marine waters of the state.

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John Upton

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