What If There Were an Oil Spill Here?

Most residents of San Luis Obispo County have no idea what would happen if there was an oil spill nearby either on the ocean off our county, or inland. The Refugio Oil Spill was a pipe disaster, which just happened to be close to the ocean. We have no oil pipes running through San Luis Obispo County, but most residents are aware of the potential spillage if oil trains were running through the county and much of California. Then if there were a catastrophe, what would happen to wildlife contaminated by the oil?

About a year ago there was an oil spill drill in Morro Bay, CA held at Pacific Wildlife Care (PWC) and The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC). These two facilities are side by side, and would both be the primary sites in the case of an oil spill in our area. Trained individuals from all over the state, and perhaps outside the state, depending on the spill severity, would assemble, and get to work. Depending on experience and training, some would have the job of rescuing the animals, some would examine, and triage, and clean, etc.

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network, of which both PWC and TMMC are members, would organize and oversee the whole operation. As oil spills have occured in other areas inland, OWCN had to begin spill drills inland to practice any changes inland spills might bring.

Since there are several locations in San Luis Obispo County where oil seepage is common, Pacific Wildlife Care personnel get plenty of practice in the washing of oiled birds. In the case of an inland spill, reptiles and land mammals, as well as birds might be contaminated. These are all animals that PWC normally treats, however, even though we have received dozens of oiled birds from refinery accidents, we have no experience with petroleum-contaminated mammals or reptiles.

To learn more about spills drills, especially inland, read the article about the recent inland spill drill from The Plumas County News below, which features a photo of Andrea Muenter, a PWC volunteer, and also a trained responder for OWCN who helped in the rescue of birds after the Deep Horizon Oil Spill in 2010.


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