David Helvarg: It smells like a gas station
David Helvarg: Death by the Bay, Opinion page, Los Angeles Times:
“…I’m sitting by the dock of the Bay — that’s what Otis Redding called the Berkeley Municipal Pier in his famous song. Only now it smells like a gas station. On the rock pile below me, a surf scoter — a diving duck — is using the bottom of its red bill to preen its oil-blackened feathers. It shakes its head and carefully repeats the process for the half an hour I’m there. When I make too sudden a move, it flaps its wings like it’s going to flee into the water, where it would likely die of hypothermia, its natural insulation ruined by the oil. I’ll see dozens more oiled birds this day: scoters, grebes, gulls, a rudy duck and cormorants.
The Berkeley marina behind me is one big, oily sheen. “Rainbows of oil” is a misnomer. Gasoline leaves rainbow sheens. Bunker fuel leaves green-and-brown streaks and smudges like marbled meat gone bad. It leaves floating tar balls and disks and globular curly-cue pieces, and concentrations of hard, asphalt-like toxic chips…”