Coast Guard cutter involved in accidental diesel spill

The U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender Alder is homeported in San Francisco.

The U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender Alder is homeported in San Francisco.The 225-foot U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender Alder, accidentally discharged approximately 500 gallons of diesel fuel 30 miles northwest of Fort Bragg, Ca., on March 15, 2024. 

Alder was enroute to Humboldt Bay when the incident occurred. 

“We are investigating the incident and are working diligently to minimize any potential environmental impacts,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Andrew Sugimoto, commander, District 11. “Our priority is to protect the environment and prevent any future incidents.”

Members of Coast Guard Sector San Francisco’s Incident Management Division notified interagency stakeholders; an investigation of the spill and its cause is underway.

The day after the incident, however, the California Office of Emergency Services released a Hazardous Material Spill Update stating the spill was attributed to “operator error, with a feed pump not being turned off.”

The spill was active from midnight until 1:24 a.m. The site of the spill was secured and no residual sheen was reported. 

The state’s report went on to say that, “Based on the 500 gallons of diesel, it would evaporate in about 18 hours in 2.5 miles. A contingency spill estimate would evaporate in 21 hours in about 3.5 miles.” 

The ship’s crew, it said, “did not deploy booms and did not have adequate tools or lighting to clean up the spill.”  

“Because of the trajectory of the wind and current, they determined that there was zero possibility that the spill would impact the shoreline,” the report concluded.

The USCG spill follows an incident off the Southern California coast the previous week in which about 85 gallons of what appeared to be “lightly weathered crude oil” was found near Huntington Beach.

Roughly a half-ton of oily waste, sand, and tar balls also were removed from the shoreline, according to the Coast Guard.

Both incidents occurred more than two years after 131,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from an Amplify Energy oil pipeline into waters off Huntington Beach in October 2021.