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Thanks, but No Thanks

I considered attending the “Volunteer Training Meeting” held Saturday morning at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for citizens who wanted to help with the cleanup of the San Francisco Bay’s worst oil spill in years.

But I’m glad I stayed home instead.

Hundreds of would-be oil spill cleanup volunteers who wanted to do something were told on Saturday in San Francisco to go home and do nothing.

Spilled oil is just too dangerous for ordinary citizens to clean up, the experts said.

The word came at an “informational session” for would-be volunteers at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium sponsored by the state Department of Fish and Game.

“Don’t go to the beach, don’t pick up tar balls, don’t touch wildlife,” said Yvonne Addassi, a wildlife director for the department. “We don’t want you to be in contact with the oil. It’s a hazardous substance.”

Fish & Game did manage to ask everyone to fill out a form. What is it with government and the forms?

At the volunteer meeting, everyone at the gathering was given an official-looking state volunteer application to fill out, complete with a loyalty oath.

Yes, apparently California Fish & Game requires you to complete a loyalty oath when they ask you to stay home and do nothing.

Because if you disobey, you’ll be cited.

Beth Brown of San Francisco said she and her boyfriend spent about 15 minutes cleaning Baker Beach on Saturday morning, filling a couple of plastic bags with oily clumps. Then a park ranger and a cop appeared, told her the beach was closed and threatened them with arrest.

Or handcuffed.

It was much the same in Marin County, where Sigward Moser led a 30-person volunteer group – including 20 monks-in-training from the Mill Valley Zen Center – onto Muir Beach on Friday. For his efforts, he was detained and handcuffed.

The little army managed to scoop up nearly 500 bags of gloppy, sandy oil between 2 and 5 p.m. Moser said it was easy duty: “It rolls up like kitty litter, right off the surface of the sand. Went right into the bags with no problem.”

They got almost all of the oil they could find – and then a National Park ranger showed up.

“He asked us to leave, and we said we needed to do what we were doing, so he put me in handcuffs,” said Moser, a communications consultant. “I told him, ‘Well, there was nobody else doing the cleanup before we began,’ but he just said I was breaking the law and this is hazardous material that I shouldn’t be dealing with.”

Meanwhile, the oil may have spread as far as eighty miles south of the Golden Gate, while citizens are turned away, cited, and handcuffed for trying to clean the goop off our beaches.

More than 80 miles south of the Golden Gate, there was grim evidence that the oil slick was on the move. Amy Reber of San Jose said she jogged along the beach at Aptos, south of Santa Cruz, on Saturday and found 28 dead birds.

“These birds were all covered in gooey oil, and then there were these others that had oil all over and hadn’t died yet,” she said.

“The water out there sure looks weird and dark.”

At least Fish & Game, having distributed the loyalty oaths, only wasted an hour-and-a-half of everyone’s time.

After 90 minutes, Addassi said the “public class” for volunteers was over because she was late for her next public class in Richmond, where she was scheduled to tell another roomful of volunteers to go home and do nothing, too.


More on the spill and the lousy response here.
(YouTube courtesy of PBmedia)

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