What Is That? Marine Pollution

I live on a boat in Seattle, just inside the Ballard Locks and across the channel from Fisherman’s Terminal. It is common around here to hear someone exclaim “What IS that?” and the answer can range from a heron to a beaver to the Alaska ferry from Juneau to Sitka pulling in for service. Saturday’s query was totally different. Fisherman's Terminal hydraulic spill

We awoke to a disgusting coating of what looked like mud (or worse) surrounding all the boats on the opposite side of the dock. Our slip was shining with something oily that threw rainbows. After our neighbor called and reported the mess to the Coast Guard, he was told a large boat at Fisherman’s Terminal blew a hydraulic line and they would send an environmental team. The environmental team used bags and bags of sheets that soak up oil and apparently hydraulic fluid. All areas filled with the disgusting brown mess were treated. Our side, with the oily sheen, was not. The Coast Guard also dispatched an air team to get a visual of the spread of the pollution. 

Now the marina looks like it has been TP’d with elephant toilet paper, as we used to say at Carver to describe the large, white packing sheets for amplifiers. Apparently they plan to leave these sheets for several more days. This is not the first time we have experienced a spill from Fisherman’s Terminal, but I seldom hear about it on the news. Come to think about it, no one ever notifies us of these spills, and I wonder how many are cleaned up and how many allow the Locks to open and close and just flush out the mess. The Coast Guard was very responsive, I just don’t know how many of the spills get reported.

The traffic in and out of the Locks is seasonal, commercial vessels, tugs, and fishing boats can come through at odd times of day and night. I’ve been here a few years and am surprised weekly at some of the vessels I watch pass by. Sometimes it seems I am privy to the secret life of Seattle. Sometimes I wish some of it weren’t quite so secret.




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