About 1,500 gallons of oil spilled Sunday night from a storage tank at Ft. Myer into Boundary Channel, which separates Columbia Island from the Virginia shore, killing aquatic life and leaving a black film on the banks, the Coast Guard said yesterday.
"I've lived here all my life and I've never seen anything so bad," National Park Service laborer Tim Donnelly said. "The banks are black with oil."
The channel, which gets its water from the Potomac River, is the western boundary of Columbia Island, which extends for more than a mile from a point north of Memorial Bridge almost to the I-95 bridges. The island is traversed by several roads including the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and contains Lady Bird Johnson Park.
J&L Industries of Baltimore was called in by Army officials to clean up the spill. James R. Szyman, president of the firm, said a cleanup crew began work at 5 a.m. yesterday and should be finished in two or three days. The job will cost from $15,000 to almost $23,000, he said.
Neil Wife, an environmental engineer with the Environmental Protection Agency in Philadelphia, said the deleterious effects on water life are almost immediate in such spills, and that the effects could linger for a year or more dependiing on the force of the tidal flushing action. The channel is a feeding place for waterfowl.