SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Fuel oil from a long-sunken freighter that previously killed thousands of birds continues to leak and recently coated more birds in the gunk along the Northern California coast, officials said.
The S.S. Jacob Luckenbach sank more than 60 years ago after colliding with another ship 17 miles southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (httTuesday.
The ship had been responsible for a major oiling event every few winters when rough seas caused it to shift on the sea floor and lose more oil, the Department of Fish and Wildlife wrote in a report on the wreck.
Leaks from the buried boat killed more than 51,000 birds and at least eight sea otters between 1990 and 2003, according to a previous report.
Holes in the vessel were believed to have been sealed in 2002, but the boat is leaking again, officials said.
Nine seabirds have turned up coated in oil along the coast since late last year, and officials have traced the spill to the Luckenbach, which sits 180 feet below the surface in what is now Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the newspaper reported.
International Bird Rescue has taken in the distressed birds found in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties and include Pacific loons, red-necked grebes, Western grebes and common murres.
Four have died, three have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild, and two were still being cared for at the center.
On July 14, 1953, the Luckenbach collided with another ship and sank while carrying railroad parts to South Korea. The boat was also carrying more than 400,000 gallons of fuel when it went down.
Samples taken from the recently recovered birds confirmed the oil came from the freighter, the newspaper reported.
Luckenbach Steamship Co. went out of business before officials pinned blame on the ship, so cleanup responsibility fell to the government.
About 300,000 gallons of oil is thought to have leaked from the vessel over time.
In 2002, the U.S. Coast Guard spent roughly $20 million to offload as much oil as it could. Roughly 100,000 gallons were siphoned but because there are 30 different compartments on the vessel containing oil, complete removal was not possible.
Steve Gonzalez, a spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said about 29,000 gallons remain in the ship.
Gonzalez said all officials can do now is monitor the wreck.