Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekend is Over - Guest Writter

THANKS to all the amazing volunteers!!

KILL THE SPILL is working!

There were over 500 unofficial volunteers who came to Taraval Street to clean up Ocean Beach (OB) today. They came from all walks of life, from all over the place, of all ages, all there to clean-up oil and KILL THE SPILL.

Lisa and her crew from came through again with heaps of oil absorbent “hair mats” to supply a waiting army. Local sponsors and individuals donated bags, gloves, food, shoes, and an eclectic array of kitchen/cat instruments to help in the effort. However, the most vital donations were time, enthusiasm, and positive energy.

A core team prepared an army of new volunteers who showed up help. We formed an assembly line to prepare the mats, distribute supplies, educate new volunteers, and send them out to the beach. Compassionate volunteers hit the beach gloved and running to sop-up as much oil as possible and put it in trash bags along the beach.

We distributed “to-go” kits to folks who wanted to help other areas. Surfers came inquiring about Deadmans, swimmers came worried about Aquatic Park. However, it was not just people who go IN the water who showed up. Some volunteers did not even know exactly where the ocean was! They came from the Sunset, the Richmond, Presidio Heights, the Mission, SOMA, Pacifica, New York, and even a couple from Tibet. Everyone dealt with toxic bunker oil fumes because they care about the environment. A huge number of strangers worked together as a well-oiled machine, driven by their individual intent to help out in a bad situation.

There was no official central command center, no one to approve/deny anything; everyone simply used judgment towards a common goal. As this mass of armatures filled hundreds of bags of oil, the official response team was at the other end of the beach. I saw them yesterday in the rain, conducting an initial training (3.5 days after the spill). They were in rain suits, hard hats, and life jackets armed with rakes. There were about 25 of them prepping to hit the beach. However they did not have appropriate materials (no hair mats or absorbent material) thus were pretty inefficient. They were too small in number to make a significant impact on anything expect their immediate area (The Beach Chalet/VFWs). Nevertheless, this crew of contracted cleaners from SoCal was friendly and helpful. They coveted our “hair mats” and shared their rain suits. Kudos to those guys who clean this shtuff up on a regular basis! Welcome to San Francisco! We are glad you are here.

We understand that several other areas are CONSIDERABLY worse off than Ocean Beach and do not criticize the allocation of resources. However, I believe that there has been and will be an insufficient amount of official clean-up resources at OB. Unfortunately, due to the impact of this spill across the Bay Area and finite official resources, this situation is not likely to change. We saw some positive action from the officials at the EPA today who organized training for our renegade crew and anyone else tomorrow at the Irish Center here in the Sunset. We are grateful for their efforts to enable us to help. Overall, my guess is that we will need volunteers to continue to help for weeks.

There were some moments of depression among the crew today regarding the official investigation and clean-up response. The situation with the pilot and the alcohol test is so absurd it is humorous. No one has seen an official clean up crew south of Gate 22. We still have bags of oil sitting on tarps, covered as best we can, waiting for the official HAZMAT team to remove. Some uneducated people continue to use the beach for recreation due to a lack of signs. Others do not clean-up properly or dispose of the oil in inappropriate places. We have aways to go before we are out of the woods.

However, the overall attitude today was amazing. This is a totally grass-roots effort. By leveraging friends and some key emails lists (Surfrider Foundation, Acqua Surf Shop, Save the Waves , and a handful of activists have created critical mass. Note that these organizations were in NO way officially affiliated with our group because they would never engage in potentially illegal activity!

Despite an overwhelming task in difficult conditions (toxic, windy, cold) with limited supplies there was never frustration or distress. Everyone lifted each other up, to rise to the task at hand, and make a difference. It made me proud to live in this neighborhood and to have such as compassionate, honorable, and competent group of friends.

All the volunteers should (and I’m sure they will!) sleep very well tonight.




brycen said...

Inspired by your efforts, and kitty scoops, I did the same thing in the Easy Bay. We picked up 150lbs in 4 hours with 5-6 people.

I've posted some instructions, which could be helpful:

Please flag as "best of craig's list" if you like it.

Keep in mind that in Berkeley the City Manager has decreed that nobody should come within 50 feet of the shore. Your efforts may be less unappreciated in Emeryville, Albany or Richmond.

Jon said...

Hoping you could link to our blog at We've got ideas on ways to help out, including a 10 cent per gallon incentive for oil collection.

Editor said...

where do you trash the stuff? I'll try to check back and get your answer here, if not, please put in the comments on www . thefrontsteps . com. Thanks!

p.s. it says "editor" but I am not the editor of this blog.

Hugh said...

I found a kitty scoop at Pacheco and used it to fill two big, really heavy trash bags with oil. Thanks for that - it was really useful.

nate said...

I've also posted my account here:

Please pay attention to the details, like the fact that nitrile is better for gloves than latex (which breaks down in presence of oil).


Open Container said...

organizing a rogue effort ourselves over here on the east bay shores Saturday Nov 17. We'd love any volunteers who have time and energy to spare... and any volunteers with experience at some of the other clean up sites! email audeyseawright at g mail dot com.

Thanks for all your efforts!

Darin Rosas said...

For those of you requesting help please leave contact method so we can contact you or email me directly. Thanks

seaocean29 said...

Hi, I was glad to be one of 500 people helped cleaning on Sat & Sun at Tarval & Great HWY area. My friend and I had a light headache during and after the cleaning. It went away quickly, so no big deal, but I assume the air is not healthy even though it doesn't stink any more? So maybe we'd better take a break every hour or so? Would love to know if anyone had a smiliar experience. -KILL THE SPILL!

Rene said...

happy to help on next cleanup date ... any idea when / where that might be?

Betty H said...

I wrote yesterday, and want to again after reading the comment about the headaches. YOU ARE DEALING WITH HAZARDOUS WASTE. The 2002 oil spill in Spain and the subsequent health problems among volunteers and workers IS THE REASONS PROFESSIONALS don't want you near it without proper protection. There are so many chemicals involved here, such as benzene, and PLEASE know you are putting yourself at great risk. I know the adrenaline and desire to help is intense, but THINK about it and BE SMART. Don't get to a place in 2 years where you have cancer or lung disease and then want to sue the government for your short-sightedness. Wear proper protection, don't ever wear your clean-up shoes in your car or house, etc. I hope you are finding out exactly what to do with the waste, because it isn't regular trash, it's part of a crime scene, and it can't be composted (as I heard one person say they're planning.)

Darin Rosas said...

Betty thanks for the words. Byron, Kathleen and myself have been leading Kill The Spill efforts. They both went through the EPA-sponsored training. Even without training yesterday we were:
-wearing protective gloves/Tyvek suits or handing them out to citizens that were not using them in their cleanup efforts.
-set up drop off points for all contaminated items (shoes or any clothing).
-Posting caution signs informing people there is hazardous oil on the beach, do not bring your pets out here.
We are in communication with all the agencies in charge of this operation.
I will post another update this evening.

nate said...

betty, I agree with you only to the extent that volunteers need to take the same precautions as professionals. But, I disagree with your tone that it's too dangerous for volunteers at all. Unofficial volunteer coordinators are taking the EPA classes as they are available, and the "professionals" are using the same safety gear as us (actually they are more poorly equipped in terms of absorbant tools).

The Spanish spill was 20 million gallons (vs. 58 thousand). That's a big difference and is quite clear from the photos.

I bet your comment about "want to sue the government for your short-sightedness" hints at a financial motive for your negativity. If you haven't done anything to help yet, I challenge you to at least donate.

I hope there is a huge backlash about the way this spill has been handled. The local and federal govt just had a practice exercise in Aug 2006 where the event was an oil spill just outside SF bay! There needs to be a faster response and more utilization of the volunteers that will do their part, no matter what.

Betty H said...

GREAT! I'm so happy some of you have had the EPA training...that's all I want, is for people to know what they are doing and to be in contact with the right agencies. I totally agree that response has been too slow. I love grassroots efforts, but I'm also a health professional that has seen too many negative affects. One of the things that also prompted me to write was seeing a woman on the news with oil on her hands and face after volunteering. It sounds like you guys have your s#%@ together, so thanks for all you're doing!

brycen said...

Our Berkeley/Emeryville cleanup was squashed by Fish & Game. All the well protected volunteers, with no oil even on the gloves, were told to cease and desist or face arrest. Never mind that the half dozen officers visiting the scene used no precautions, and tracked oil everywhere. And never mind that joggers and cyclists using the beach were not hassled. Just us cleaners. Check evening news for some of the story.

The official training is late, grudging, and in the East Bay very difficult to get into. Day 1 is the day to clean a beach. As each day passes, and as the beach is used for recreation, it gets a lot harder.

I envy you San Francisco people who seem to have enjoyed more official support.

Victoria said...

tHow can we clean up the East Bay ?? Who can we contact? What can we do???

leeleew65 said...

Support the San Francisco Oil Spill clean-up.

Please edit and send this letter below to as many politicians, people in power etc as you can think of....

Here are a few sites where you can easily email directly: (this is for Arnie!)
Here's a directory of more:

I am a surfer and resident of San Francisco writing to express my support for a continued federally funded clean-up of the beaches affected by the recent oil spill in San Francisco Bay on Wednesday 9th November.

It is deeply disturbing that it took 3 days before an official clean-up of Ocean Beach was launched at 2pm on Sunday 11th November. I am happy to hear that an official operation is now underway but feel slightly frustrated that there is little infrastructure in place for untrained volunteers like myself to get involved, other than in the oiled wildlife efforts.

I am writing to influential people like yourself to express my hope that the clean-up operation and subsequent rigorous water testing are sufficiently funded until our beaches are completely safe to venture upon and the surrounding waters clean once again for the hundreds of surfers to return to their deeply beloved therapeutic daily ritual.

There is also a concern that the oil will spread to beaches further north and south of San Francisco at present not affected by the spill, for example the popular surf beach of Linda Mar, Pacifica. Please support funding needed to put in place oil containment bouys/lines across these neighboring bays to ensure the oil does not wash up on these beaches in the days, weeks, months to come.

I urge you to please support any and all efforts to quickly and professionally clean-up and prevent further damage to the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding waters, beaches and coastline.

Amanda Harper

southpaw-mo said...

I am wondering how the official training by the EPA went on monday? also, will they have another official training soon? i also want to express my thanks to Surfrider for being proactive, positive and well organized on sunday-11/12. i showed up around 3:00pm, worked @ OB until dark and had a few cups of beer and positive energy. Thanks Surfrider- you rule!

Heidi Fuller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heidi Fuller said...

Please, any and all caring and cautious leaders of this amazing effort, please post instructions/advise on what we ordinary citizens can do in a spare hour or more to jump in and help. Where do we go? Any contact points? Just pick up a kitty scoop and bag and go to it? Any particular hot spots where more help is needed? I'm a freelance writer. I can jump in at any time, but don't know where to start. Thanks! I love your grass roots efforts and passion, and i appreciate those who care about our safety too.

k. ober said...

I missed the weekend cleanup so went out all day Monday at OB. there were about 50 people by noon cleaning between Noriega and Taraval! sharing supplies, ideas and tips; Including hair mats and another material (white cottony, came in a roll, very oil obsorbant). people power

Kathleen said...

The EPA training was pretty good. No major new news but some new tips on hazmat suits and clean up. The good news is that the toxins should break down and evaporate in a few more days and we will be left with tar to clean up which is a lot better than chemicals. I just want to get back in the water as soon as possible! Kathleen.

Emlon said...

Why has the oil spill in the Bay triggered a belated response in training volunteers? Why is there no training program to deal with such an inevitable situation BEFORE it is necessary? Why were thousands of volunteers held back by not being trained before a spill (haz mat and oiled wildlife training)? This is the equivalent of saying that people should get CPR training after an emergency. Why are the trainings happening now, and why weren’t they scheduled before there was an accident, so that people could mobilize immediately?

Needless to say, disaster preparation is clearly necessary in oil spills as much as earthquakes or any other natural disaster. Too bad no one thought of training “first responder” volunteers for an oil spill before this.

brycen said...

For Hedi who asked "do I just get a litter scoop and go"? No. Read more, protect your self more, and don't track oil on your feet.

My East Bay Beach guide is not 100% on target for Ocean Beach, and it was written about fresh oil, but you might find it interesting:

Bekka said...

I have been certified (i took the class in SF), but we need an online place where the beaches to go work are, by day, and by location. Is there somewhere for that online? Anyone know? Contact bekka at

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thermostable said...

Qin Chen, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge:
The ecological catastrophe in the gulf of Mexico can be compared to the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Millions of gallons of oil are already in the Gulf of Mexico, and until now BP engineers failed to stop the leak.
The tornado season which has started recently in the Mexican gulf can geographically coincide with the oil spill. The oil emerging into the tornado can be air diffused. It is still debated whether the oil dispersed as an aerosol can reach explosive quality. That this situation is far from hypothetical was demonstrated by the U.S. "mother of all bombs" and the Russian "dad of all bombs". Based on the same dispersion principle, with 16,000 lbs of explosive aerosol inside, it is equivalent to 88,000 pounds of TNT.
“The amount of the oil dispersed in a form of an aerosol in the tornado epicenter can be enormous” - Qin Chen says. The extreme explosive capacity of the oil aerosol might affect numerous economically important centers in the U.S.

What does the U.S. government do to prevent this explosive situation?