Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Alameda's Contaminated Lagoons Exposed to California Water Board

"Environmental abuse is like racism; people are so
conditioned to it that it seems invisible."
Duck shock in Alameda's Lagoon #1

(For the record, I have the utmost respect for the Water Board and its staff. Their responsibility is immense; their budget is tight; and work must be prioritized. This regional office deals with major health threats like mercury and PCBS and major polluters like large dairy operations for nine counties and 76 municipalities. I sat through 5 hours of deliberations and presentations before returning a second time for a chance at the microphone. These dedicated professionals quietly go about the invisible job of protecting our health and lives.)

Alameda's aging finger lagoons are subject to state and federal environmental laws, and they're an environmental disgrace to the otherwise beautiful and progressive city of Alameda.

Today I presented a plea for strict enforcement of storm sewer regulations (see attached) at a hearing in the Elihu M. Harris State Building auditorium to the Regional Water Quality Control Board and attendees. It was highly satisfying to finally get in front of sympathetic and responsible authorities who can take appropriate action. (Here is a complete transcript of my presentation: July 8 Water Board Presentation)

The images projected onto a wall-sized screen in dimmed light were highly effective, and I delivered my rapid-fire opening statement like a prosecuting attorney. The words had been honed down to a bare minimum to fit the 3-minute format.

There's nothing special in the words I spoke. It was the simple truth people have been avoiding for years. Environmental abuse is like racism, people are so conditioned to its presence that it seems  invisible. Now the secret shame of the lagoons is out in the open.

There was a point, early on, when I sensed a hush in the place and I knew I had everyone's rapt attention. The comments from the Board Chair were rich with appreciation and concern. There was no substantive rebuttal. The Board staff seemed embarrassed, saying water quality in the lagoons was a long-known problem and would receive more attention.

It was immensely satisfying, a day I will not forget.

Nor, I suspect, will the people present.

The Water Board will be looking into the matter, and I now have friendly face-to-face relations there .

Great white egret in Marin County

There's a win-win-win solution begging to be implemented here that involves innovative thinking.

An eco-minded architect could design self-funding solar-collecting sculptures that also aerate while reducing the solar footprint on the lagoons, thereby increasing aesthetics while solving the algae problem.

Whats up, millennials? My generation Messed up. Let's put our heads together and make Alameda a model for eco-sensible partnering between man and nature. Property values would be enhanced and we could all be proud of the result.

All the Bay Area Universities should be falling over each other to solve this problem. You can't tell me that with today's technology we can't come up with a solution that preserves the beauty of the lagoons while restoring the richness of their natural function as marine habitat.

This is how they do it in Vancouver
Bayside water garden in Vancouver, B.C.

My dream is the return of seabirds to Alameda's finger lagoons. If we can't do this, they should be filled-in and made into a park.

Friday, May 29, 2015

AMP/CGI Drilling Project (Suspect #2) Checks Out

Great white egret at San Leandro Bay

According to Janice Adams of Alameda Power, their horizontal drilling project was completed in May, 2014, and did not involve the use of an oil-based drilling mud additive; so it is highly unlikely the Bird Goo is from that source.

Here's a link to her full response: AMP Response. It's pretty impressive.

So back to Suspect #1, the Lagoon Seawall Sewer Replacement Project.

Thanks to the folks at Alameda Sun, the word is getting out about our search for the Bird Killers.

Alameda Sun, May 21, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Goleta Nightmare: The Storm Sewer Delivery System

" What government body approved this pipeline design? What responsible authority would allow such inept engineering to be foisted upon the public? At what point do political cronyism and bureaucratic indifference become criminal negligence?"

Santa Barbara's Nightmare

Santa Barbara's Nightmare has returned. Delivered unimpeded with pinpoint accuracy by a storm sewer running along Highway 101, crude oil has again blackened a formerly scenic California beach and decimated a marine ecosystem. Didn't we learn anything from the '69 Santa Barbara disaster?

Click here for the breaking story from CBS: Santa Barbara's Nightmare , Do I need to describe the grim landscape that will appear on tonight's six o-clock news? Black sludge-covered seabirds and otters, seals and sea lions, struggling for life. An undulating mass of blackened seaweed where foamy breakers formerly rolled shoreward.

The Goleta oil spill reveals flawed engineering from horse-and-buggy days rife with ecological ignorance and indifference.

Why weren't automatic shut-off valves operating? Where was the backup system? A drop in pipeline pressure should have stopped the pumping and triggered an investigation. Catch basins could have been built along the pipelines for ease of clean-up and to prevent spillage from reaching sensitive areas. What design considerations were made for local seismic conditions?

Post-1969 and considering the high threat of earthquakes, catch basins should have been required. It is criminally deficient to not include even the simplest environmental safety features in pipeline design. We can send spacecraft to Saturn and beyond, but we can't build and safely operate a simple pipeline?

And don't use the worn-out cost excuse. Cost gets factored into the feasibility of the project. Safety is integral to cost. Are we mentally impaired when it comes to the design of ecologically prudent oil pipelines?

What government body approved this flawed pipeline design? What responsible authority would allow such inept engineering to be foisted upon the public? At what point do political cronyism and bureaucratic indifference become criminal negligence?

Lack of regulatory oversight was a major factor in the Goleta tragedy: Click here for an expose on how the pipeline operator dodged regulation  "Because the county was denied the regulatory authority to require that Plains equip its pipeline with an automatic shut-down valve in case of a rupture, The Santa Barbara Independent has discovered, the Plains pipeline is the only pipeline in the county without this key safety feature. "

The corporation must pay damages, but real accountability means some corporate types need to be in handcuffs and orange jumpsuits.

Storm sewers may be implicated in the still unsolved 2015 Seabird Massacre, presently under investigation by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, and myself. (This investigation is the main purpose of this web site.)

Storm sewers. We never think about them, but they are pipelines for toxins into San Francisco Bay. What goes down the gutter ends up in our marine environment.

Goleta and the Seabird Massacre are wake-up calls. Attend the June 10 (click here for details) PUBLIC WORKSHOP HEARINGS FOR THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY STORMWATER PERMIT This hearing will consider comments regarding pending action which will help protect the entire San Francisco Bay from the discharge of toxic waste through storm sewers.

Don't let this happen to San Francisco Bay:

If you can't be at the hearing and have comments or questions, post them here on this blog and I will present them on your behalf at the hearing and post the follow-up here.

Here's a list of Bay Area politicians and organizations who can effect change: Whom to Contact

How many seabird massacres does it take for you to take action?

Goleta coastline, May 19, 2015.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Get Involved or Get Ready for Empty Skies

"More of us must become educated to the threat to wildlife imposed by ecological ignorance and indifference and poorly designed development and get actively involved--or..."

AT LEFT is a common tern looking for a meal in San Leandro Bay, where the marine ecosystem has entered a new era of catastrophic ecological threat due to global warming and other human activity.

Sediment buildup from Alameda's lagoons and dredging of the Oakland-Alameda Estuary have recently combined to shift tidal currents, drawing toxins from street run-off and lagoon chemicals into the feeding grounds of these magnificent aerial acrobats.

The human threat to marine wildlife here took a dramatic turn once before in the early 1900s, when dredging of a marsh turned the Alameda Penninsula into an island. The ecosystem had to adjust to the flooding and scavenging effect of powerful new tidal flows.

Further dredging of the newly-created Oakland-Alaemda Estuary made possible the Port of Oakland, a thriving seaport with hundreds of jobs, but a side-effect was a curse for the marine ecosystem of San Leandro Bay. New ship channel depths allowed larger ships to enter the Port but also increased the strength of tidal currents, drawing toxins from Alameda's lagoon effluent around the eastern tip of Alameda Island through the habitat of thousands of seabirds in San Leandro Bay.

Alameda's Tidal Curse is documented here on my blog: Alameda's Tidal Curse . The Curse is that whatever is carried down the Estuary from San Leandro Bay will be returned there and gets recycled repeatedly, day after day. The Tidal Curse is a prime suspect in the Seabird Massacre of 2015, where three hundred beautiful seabirds died and hundreds more were treated and released. The birds were caked in an oily goo that causes hypothermia a hideous death after hours of shivering from the cold.

The Massacre is still under investigation, but we don't have to wait. Action is already underway by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, who recently issued a new tentative ruling effectively declaring Zero Tolerance for anything but storm water to be released into storm sewers: Regional Water Quality Control Board Action .

This new ruling needs to be extended to include lagoons and all inland waterways feeding the San Francisco Bay. Call or write the Board with your comments. If you can--show up on June 12.

What will we learn from the 2015 Seabird Massacre? Will Alameda wake up? Will the City continue to use chemicals to control algae in their ancient finger lagoons? Will first responders become more responsive? Will the police show more interest in environmental cases? Will people use their cell phone cameras to record and report environmental threats? Will schools expand their ecological awareness curriculum?

Everyone enjoys seeing herons, terns, grebes, ducks, pelicans and egrets in our skies and waters. We share their living quarters. Urban development doesn't have to destroy wildlife. More of us must become educated to the threat to wildlife imposed by ecological ignorance and indifference and poorly designed development and get actively involved--or... day the skies will be empty.

Get involved.

Here's a list of politicians, agencies and organizations you can contact: Who to Contact

Friday, May 15, 2015

Drilling Mud "STP" Questions for Alameda Power

"Did anyone at AMP question why CTI's bid showed a substantially shorter duration than others?"

Suspect #2 in my search for the cause of the 2015 Seabird Massacre is a 2014 horizontal directional drilling (HDD) project to lay power conduit to Coast Guard Island from Alameda under the Estuary downstream from where a plume of greyish-tan sludge was reported prior to the massacre of hundreds of seabirds by a mysterious grey goo clinging to their bodies, causing death by hypothermia.

Laboratory analysis by California Fish and Wildlife of the Mystery Goo matches a type of oily "STP"-like* drilling mud additive that accelerates the rate of penetration (ROP) in earth-boring projects such as this drilling mud nightmare.

Drilling mud nightmare

Following is a list of questions I submitted today to Alameda Power about the 2014 CGI conduit drilling project.
"Previously asked:
1. Dates drilling began and ended.
2. What type drilling mud and drilling mud additives were used.

3. Please enumerate if exceptions were made to generally-accepted engineering standards for environmental protection.
4. Were exceptions made to City standards for bidding? If so, how were they justified?
5. What, if any, previous experience did California Trenchless Inc (CTI) have with directional drilling projects of this type and scale?
6. How did CTI control and dispose of waste drilling mud? (The on-line contract documents specified a "mud pit" for retaining waste drilling mud, but there was none observed during the several days I watched the drilling during my daily walks.)
7. What geological data did CTI and AMP use to ensure environmental safety, e.g., the nature and composition of the subterranean geologic formation?
8. Did CTI or AMP do post-project testing for drilling mud leakage? If so, what were the results?
9. What level of on-site supervision did AMP have throughout the project? (The drilling was only yards away from AMP's headquarters.)
10. How otherwise did AMP assure themselves of contract compliance?
11. Did AMP perform on-site testing regarding environmental risks such as frac-out and waste mud leakage and disposal?
12. Do AMP and CTI have insurance coverage for environmental risk?
13. Did anyone at AMP question why CTI's bid showed a substantially shorter duration than others? (The use of a drilling mud additive would have accelerated the ROP [rate of penetration], reducing cost by speeding up the project, but would also increase environmental risk.)
Some of the information may not be readily available and can be provided later, but please provide what you can early next week.
I live nearby and am available should my assistance be needed.
Thanks again for your cooperation."

We will get to the bottom of this.

*STP is a popular additive for motor oil that is advertised to reduce friction.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Encouraging News in Quest to Protect the Seabirds

(This page is reserved for encouraging news in our mission to find the cause of Alaemda's October Toxic Spill and the Mystery Goo and take corrective action.)

May 11, 2015: GREAT NEWS! Today the Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a Tentative Order for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit under the Clean Water Act covering municipal stormwater discharges. What this order does, subject to changes after public hearings in June and July, is effectively a ZERO TOLERANCE edict against storm drain emissions other than storm water.

This means: No contaminants whatsoever. No fertilizers. No herbicides. No algicides. No surfactants. No blue dye to fight lagoon algae. It also means restrictions and monitoring at construction sites, which would ostensibly prevent the use of oil-based drilling fluids like what (I suspect) was responsible for the January 2015 Seabird Massacre. (This will be covered in a paper I plan to submit and speak on at the June10 hearing.)

PLEASE SEND ME YOUR COMMENTS AND INPUT TO BE INCLUDED. You can e-mail me or attach a comment here on the blog.

April 14, 2015: This morning's missive from the dedicated folks at International Bird Rescue in Fairfield:
"Dear Mr Heying,Thank you so much for taking the time to email your information and idea about the Mystery Goo to us. I have forwarded a link to your blog, as well as your email to the State investigators who are still working on the this case and determined to find the responsible party.
Barbara Callahan Interim Director International Bird Rescue"

Did a Coast Guard Island Drilling Fluid Disaster Kill the Seabirds?

"Such a fracture could leak drilling fluid into the Bay Area basin and watershed with catastrophic consequences to marine life such as the Bay Area's 2015 Seabird Massacre."

Suspect Number Two in my investigation is last year's trans-Estuary directional drilling project to string conduit to Coast Guard Island from Alameda. In the shot below, Alameda is to the left and Coast Guard Island is bottom center. (Refer to the attached Initial Study for a detailed project description.)
Coast Guard Island in Foreground

The material spewing into the air in the picture below is drilling fluid, an essential material in almost all earth-boring projects like last year's Alameda Municipal Power bore under the Estuary to lay 1,700 feet of flexible conduit to serve the Coast Guard's needs.

This Youtube video shows what can go wrong: Link to Video of Directional Drilling Nightmare

Directional Drilling Nightmare

Drilling fluid is often used under high pressure, so a massive uncontrolled discharge such as this could happen deep under water and go temporarily unnoticed by everyone but the drilling crew. A geologist should be consulted before using a rock bit anywhere near Bay Area waterways because of the risk of fracturing the often fragile native subsurface geologic formations. Such a fracture (called a "frac-out") could leak drilling fluid into the Bay Area basin and watershed with potentially catastrophic consequences to marine life such as the 2015 Alameda Seabird Massacre.

A drill bit could also hit a subterranean air pocket and fill it with drilling fluid that later leaks to the surface. For that matter, the entire 1,700-foot bore could contain drilling mud residue that continues leaking into the marine environment long after project completion.

Elsewhere in this blog I report that the Bird Goo lab analysis matches a type of additive used in drilling mud. Such additives are for various purposes, such as accelerating the rate of penetration (ROP), thereby reducing the cost of a project and enabling a contractor to win-out over higher bidders.

But speed can lead to mistakes, and accidents can happen. There's insurance to cover such eventualities.

I have asked the Coast Guard for a contact who can answer questions about the CGI drilling project. I will also speak to someone at Alameda Municipal Power.

There a questions to be answered: Were proper engineering standards for environmental protection followed? Was the bidding process deficient? The drilling was practically in AMP's backyard. Did they have on-site supervision throughout the project?

California Trenchless, Inc. was the drilling contractor. I have questions for them too, like how much drilling mud was used, and what kind. What kind of additives were used and how much? How did they dispose of waste drilling mud? What geological data did they use to ensure environmental safety? Did they do any post-project testing for drilling mud leakage? If so, what were the results? How much experience did CTI have in drilling projects of this scale?

Whenever there's dredging in the Bay Area, a Water Quality Board rep is on site testing turbidity every ten minutes. Drilling mud is equally if not more ecologically risky than turbidity. Was a Water Board rep present during drilling? If not, why not?

I am aware of only two significant drilling projects in the vicinity of Alameda within the relevant time frame prior to the Seabird Massacre--the Lagoon Seawall Sewer Replacement and the Coast Guard Island Conduit project. If anyone knows of another, speak up.

The finger of suspicion points at these two drilling projects and lagoon dredging in Alameda ongoing prior to the Seabird Massacre. Maybe all three played a role in the massacre. I am intent on probing these areas until answers are out in to the open.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Seniors Comprehend Lagoon Portal Bird Goo Theory

" date, no other plausible theory has been proposed explaining the source of the Bird Massacre Mystery Goo..."

The Lagoon Portal Theory is based on a solid foundation irrefutable facts detailed below in a summary of my presentation to a group of thirty seniors at Alameda's Independence Plaza yesterday. Their questions stretched my planned twenty-minute multi-media talk to well over an hour. Large photos and other hand-outs were accompanied by videos of lagoon dredging, directional drilling and drilling mud.

The Lagoon Portal Bird Goo Theory asserts that January's bird-killing Mystery Goo came from drilling mud released into Alameda's lagoons last fall during a sewer replacement project scheduled at the same time the lagoons were being dredged.

As of today, May 7, 2015, no other plausible theory has been proposed explaining the source of the Bird Massacre Mystery Goo, nor has anyone credibly refuted the Lagoon Portal Theory. City management has been copied on practically every major posting on this blog, yet their silence is deafening.

Fine. I have what I believe will be "smoking gun" physical evidence in my cross-hairs. In the next few days I expect hard proof in hand of a massive release of drilling mud into the lagoons. Wish me luck.

Independence Plaza

The seniors at Independence Plaza were an enthusiastic audience, many of whom are eager to get involved. They clearly understood the Lagoon Portal Theory despite the complexities, and they understood the implication that if the perpetrators of the 2015 Bay Area Bird Massacre are allowed to go unpunished, it is an invitation for repetition.


1. Two eyewitness accounts of a plume of Grey Sludge from the direction of a Lagoon Portal
2. Lagoon Dredging was underway for the 2 weeks prior to sighting of the Grey Plume
3. The Plume contained debris consistent with dredging
4. Photo evidence of a Foaming Surfactant in a lagoon similar to oil spill clean-up
5. Seabirds were killed by a mysterious Grey Goo soon after sighting the Plume
6. Grey Goo lab analysis matches drilling fluid
7. Two City drilling projects Llagoon Seawall Sewer Replacement and Coast Guard Island Power Conduit) were conducted prior to Plume sighting
8. An abandoned trench adjacent to lagoons is consistent with drilling activity
9.  Nearby tidal currents are conducive to distribution of lagoon emissions on seabird habitat
10. Photo evidence of seabird habitat degradation near lagoon portal during relevant time frame
11.The Lagoon Portal and CGI Conduit are the only plausible Goo sources proposed to date
12.No credible refutations of these two sources have thus far been advanced

OBJECTIVE: A commission to…
•  Investigate Alameda's drilling and dredging projects for linkage to the  seabird massacre
•  Evaluate the environmental risk of using chemicals in the lagoons
•  Evaluate the responsiveness of emergency services to environmental threat
•  Propose an Environmental Good Samaritan ordinance offering a bounty for reporting polluters
•  Review and/or propose a city environmental policy
•  Advise Mayor on establishment of a city office of environmental awareness


Tell government representatives you are concerned about the ecosystem and want a reporting system and consequences for toxic damage. Sign a petition soon to be circulated. Visit the AlamedaGoo blog to learn more. Share what you learn.

Senator Mark Leno – 916.651.4011- no email -- c/o
Assemblyman Rob Bonta – 510.286.16701 –
Mayor Trish Spencer – 510.747.4701 -
Alameda City Council – 510.747.4722 - - 2263 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda, CA 94501

Monty J Heying - 510-872-3144 -
April B. Squires - 415-592-4119  -
Michael  Dunmore - 510-263-8122 -
Golden Gate Audubon Society -  510-843-2222 - 2530 San Pablo Ave # G, Berkeley, CA 94702

Check out the Prime Suspect: Click here to learn about the Mystery Goo Prime Suspect.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mystery Goo Suspect #1--a Seawall Sewer Job

"There's yellow and black barrier tape in the bottom of the trench. Is/was there an ongoing investigation (other than mine)?"

The bid document  for a seawall sewer line replacement adjacent to Alameda's finger lagoons provides clues to how a massive amount of drilling mud could have gotten into San Francico Bay via the lagoons causing the January, 2015, massacre of 300 seabirds.

Following are illustrations relating to the seawall sewer line replacement project mentioned in my April 18 post "Mystery Bird Goo Matches Drilling Mud."

This project is the most likely source of the Mystery Goo uncovered so far because of the close proximity of the project to the lagoons and the likelihood the project entailed the use of a drilling mud matching the Mystery Goo's lab results.

Here's the quote from the bidding document:
"5. Installation of sewer pipe by horizontal directional drilling of +- 91 LF of 8" sewer main between two manholes in close proximity to existing homes using front steer guided bore and jack method with steel bend VCP. Install new sewer manhole and rehabilitate existing sewer manhole with epoxy/cement like coating on Hawthorne Street." 
Hawthorne Street is a few blocks west of Paru Street, where another part of the sewer project takes place. These photos concentrate on a Paru Street trench scaled down in dimensions and depth from a directional drilling project I observed last summer at the opposite end of Grand Avenue for pulling power conduit under the Estuary to Coast Guard Island.

The ten-inch sewer pipe mentioned in the bid document appears in the distance behind the fence bordering Grand Avenue (Image 3a.) The proximity of the sewer line to the lagoon is evident. Drilling near that pipe would risk leakage of drilling mud into the lagoon.
(Click photo to enlarge)

 Image 3b shows the scale of this western  section of the network of finger lagoons. (You can "drill down" with Google Maps for a broader perspective on these finger lagoons.)

Image 3c gives a closer view of the rusty ten-inch pipe shielded from the elements by a roof of rusted corrugated tin. The large red round structure is a pumping station scheduled for replacement as part of the project. Has this portion been delayed? Why?

Image 3d is a cose-up of the pipe from the opposite side of the chain-link fence where Paru Street dead-ends at the lagoon.. Note the white arrow spray-painted along the fence, perhaps to show workers the direction to drill.

Image 3e shows a trench covered with a thin sheet of plywood. As mentioned above, this trench is similar in dimensions and depth to the trench in the CGI drilling project completed last summer. A collapsed "City of Alameda" safety barrier sign lies flat at the far end of the trench.

Image 3f is a close-up of the trench with the city sign arranged for ease of reading. Drilling would have begun just below the left "toe" of the sign and made a left turn toward Grand Avenue, as the white arrow indicated.

The following Youtube link illustrates a drilling method similar to the one specified in the bid document: (Click here for video illustrating a similar drilling project.) Note the drilling fluid being released through the drill bit. Guided directional drilling can be accomplished with a variety of equipment, but it's a well-established technology.

These photos raise as many questions as they answer, but they suggest that drilling occurred here and that the City was involved. Fresh grass has begun growing on adjacent piles of loose fill dirt. The City sign, the apparent age of the of the trench, the trench's proximity to the lagoon seawall and the specification of "directional drilling" in the bid document all imply this trench could have had something to do with the sewer line replacement project.

The dirt at the far end of the trench was quite damp, while the uphill portion was dry. This indicates the seawall is not sealed if lagoon water can seep into the trench and that drilling fluid could have seeped through into the lagoon.

Why has the trench remained open all this time? Why is an unsafe trench left exposing passersby to injury? Did the contractor(s) drill at the wrong location? Was there a miscommunication or was this an approved test outside the scope of the sewer replacement project? There is yellow and black barrier tape in the bottom of the trench. Is/was there an ongoing investigation (other than mine)? If so, what were the findings and conclusions?

A forgotten trench at the end of a dead-end street.

The mystery continues.

Incidentally, below are a couple of photos I took of a snowy egret just below the culvert mentioned at the beginning of this article. Note the familiar grey smudge on its head. Five months after the first bird deaths, the goo keeps showing up.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Mystery Bird Goo Matches Drilling Mud

"Compare the grey on the duck's chest with the color of the drilling fluid..."

Strong indications have surfaced that a type of drilling mud is a likely source of the "Mystery Goo" that killed and injured hundreds of Bay Area seabirds this winter. All five of the goo's chemical components are present in the type of drilling mud described in detail in this patent application.*

Drilling fluid, or "mud," is a concoction of liquids and other materials used in drilling boreholes into the earth. The main function of the viscous liquid is to provide back pressure to prevent other fluids from coming up, to bring cuttings to the surface, and to lubricate, cool and clean the drill bit. Well-drilling involves drilling mud and waste mud must be disposed of. Here's a video illustrating how drilling mud works: Click here for Youtube clip on drilling mud.

Laboratory analysis of the Mystery Goo was reported by California Fish and Wildlife's Janna Rinderneck to contain five types of material: "silicone fluids, tung oils, resins or rosin oils, animal fats, and edible or inedible seed oils from plants." All five of these categories are present in the type of drilling compound described in detail in the above patent application.

One-hundred percent is a pretty strong indication that some form of drilling mud is repsonsible for the Goo.

How did drilling mud get into the waters that surround Alameda where the bird massacre occcured?

Last year, two large drilling contracts were let in Alameda--one by the Department of Public Works for replacement of a sewer line in a lagoon seawall** and the other by Alameda Municipal Power for running conduit across the Oakland-Alameda Estuary to Coast Guard Island. The CGI project began and ended before the October 12 sludge spill.

The project schedule for lagoon seawall sewer line replacement calls for contract award Sept 2, in plenty of time for a hemorrhage of drilling fluid into the lagoons to occur before October 12.

Dredge in Alameda lagoon

Alameda Public Works also conducted major lagoon dredging in the months prior to and including the first two weeks of October, 2014.

Lagoon,showing white and grey foam

The photo at right reveals the apparent use of a white foaming agent and/or a surfactant to clarify lagoon water after dredging.

A well-drilling surfactant matching 80% (4 out of 5) of the Goo's chemical components shows up in a 2007 patent application.***

Duck saturated with "Mystery Goo"

Around the same time the grey and white foam was photographed floating in the lagoons, a plume of foamy grey sludge was reported in San Leandro Bay. The lagoon foam, the San Leandro Bay sludge and the Bird Goo all are grey.

Compare the grey on the duck's chest with the color of the drilling fluid in the top photo.

On October 12, 2014, the plume of sludge was seen entering San Leandro Bay from the direction of a lagoon portal just west of the Otis Street/Bay Farm Bridge. The plume was observed moving from there into and down the Oakland-Alameda Estuary toward San Francisco Bay on the outgoing tide. (See below for a map depicting tidal currents around Alameda.****) By mid-January, 2015, hundreds of seabirds caked with a grey goo of unknown origin were found near Alameda.

Alameda Public Works was in charge of lagoon dredging and water clarity and also of the seawall sewer project that entailed the use of a drilling fluid, possibly the type described in the patent application mentioned in the first paragraph of this page. Did the seawall drilling project expel a ton of drilling mud into a lagoon? Was that covered up by lagoon dredging and then cleaned up with a foaming agent and a surfactant?

Eye-witness observations, visual characteristics, time frames and the lab analysis of the Bird Goo all support a connection between the Goo and Alameda's lagoons and drilling projects.

Public Works has some questions to answer.

*See patent application for drilling fluid containing all five of the Bird Goo's ingredients (silicone, tung oil, seed oil, resin and animal fats): Click here for patent application for drilling fluid

**See bidding notice for drilling contracts: Click here for bidding notice

***A 2007 patent application for a surfactant used in well drilling reveals a combination of materials that include polymeric fluids (e.g., silicone) tung oils, fish oils (animal fat) and various seed oils: Click here to examine patent application for well-drilling surfactant.

****Here is a map and discussion of Alameda's tidal currents: Click here for explanation of tidal movements

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Well-drilling Surfactant Matches the Mystery "Goo"

Progress is being made in identifying the seabird-killing Mystery Goo.

A 2007 patent application (see below) reveals that a surfactant* used in well drilling contains components matching eighty percent (four out of five) of the Goo's ingredients.

Silicone fluids**Tung oil, seed oil, and animal fats (e.g., fish oil) are present in the surfactant and are among the five Goo components in lab results reported by Janna Rinderneck, the Fish and Wildlife scientist who managed the Goo's testing.

As quoted in, Rinderneck lists five probable components of the Goo:
"Scientists at several state and federal laboratories determined after more than two weeks of research that the substance was 'a mixture of nonpetroleum-based fats or oils.' ...'The exact oil- or fat-based product has not been determined, but likely suspects are:1) silicone fluids, 2) tung oils, 3) resins or rosin oils, 4) animal fats, and 5) edible or inedible seed oils from plants,' said Janna Rinderneck, an environmental scientist with the state Office of Spill Prevention and Response."

As shown below, seed oils, tung oil and animal fats (fish oil) are specifically mentioned in the surfactant's patent application. Silicone, being a polymer, qualifies as the "polymeric additive.":
"...a polymeric additive** coating the powdered solid; wherein the polymeric additive comprises a polymer least one selected from soybean oil, linseed oil, grapeseed oil, cashew nut shell oil; perilla oil, tung oil, oiticia oil, safflower oil, poppy oil, hemp oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, high-oleic triglycerides, triglycerides of euphorbia plants, peanut oil, olive oil, olive kernel oil, almond oil, kapok oil, hazelnut oil, apricot kernel oil, beechnut oil, lupine oil, maize oil, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, lallemantia oil, castor oil, herring oil, sardine oil..."

Here's the full application: Patent Application for Surfactant with Goo Ingredients (Click Here)

Only petroleum has been ruled out. No item from this non-petroleum list has at this point been ruled out, but the presence of four of the five Goo ingredients points to a surfactant as the source of the Goo.

Now all that's needed to prove the Goo originated in Alameda's lagoons is to find residues of these ingredients there.

Or, maybe a whistle-blower will come forward.

*Definition and discussion of surfactants: What is a Surfactant? (Click Here)
**Silicone is a polymer.

Stagnant Lagoons Cause Problems

"... a mixture of non-petroleum-based fats or oils. Non-petroleum oils include synthetic oils, such as silicone fluids, tung oils, and wood-derivative oils such as resin/rosin, animal fats and vegetable oils."

(Below is my opinion piece from the April 9 issue of The Alameda Sun points an accusing finger at Alameda's finger lagoons as the cause of the Bay Area's Seabird Massacre of 2015.)

Built more than fifty years ago, Alameda's Finger Lagoons that stretch from Court Street to Westline Drive have evoked mystic phrases like, "Venice of California." They border some of Alameda's nicest homes. On Google Maps, they look like a thin blue cutworm crawling across the city's main island.

But beauty and cach'e come at a price. The lagoons can be an attractive nuisance. Recently a man was seen dumping a tub of soiled cat litter over the railing of his second floor balcony.

The Finger Lagoons have aesthetic appeal, but for some they have become an ecological nightmare. Global warming has turned stagnant bodies of water into algae farms. Algae love still water, heat and bright sunlight. Last year was the hottest on record in Northern California, with a record number of sunny days as well.

By contrast, the tree-shaded lagoons on Bay Farm Island were designed with 1970s  technology. No fingers impede flow. An aeration system keeps the water oxygenated. The aging lagoons on Alameda Island are not aerated and have little shade. With no aeration system, algae growth in these older lagoons must be controlled with chemicals. It's these chemicals I have a problem with.

Over the past ten years, signs have been posted at Alameda's beaches warning not to go into the water. Some unknown hazard makes peoples' legs sting. Could the mysterious source of that sting be chemicals released from the lagoons?

Our beaches are covered with sand reclaimed from just offshore. Was that sand tested for toxins first? Are tiny children and  mothers safe in that sand?

Last October I observed someone in a Clean Lakes, Inc. truck taking a water sample from a lagoon. According to its web site, Clean Lakes is a global expert in "clarifying" inland waterways with toxic agricultural chemicals. A city engineer told me the company was essentially a lagoon janitorial service. Good thing I'm not that gullible.

The same engineer said the lagoon dredging solids were dumped "at Alameda Point on a toxic hot spot." Well, what about the liquids? You know the ones that went out that pipe into San Francisco Bay?

Last October I observed a plume of grey sludge and debris in San Leandro Bay that I suspect came from dredging the lagoons. This will be hard to prove, but Cal Fish and Wildlife said they would send someone out to take samples. I filed a complaint with the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

We will get to the bottom of this.

Maybe those 1950s-era lagoons should be filled in, made into a park.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Alameda's Tidal Curse

The Sludge Could Have Returned Dozens, if not Hundreds of Times

"What I found sent a chill up my spine.  ...Like a toilet flushing backward, the "bad stuff" kept returning. Alameda's Tidal Curse was a death trap for marine life."

Someone asked, "If the sludge you saw in October was the Bird Goo, how could it take from October to January, ten weeks, to kill the seabirds?"

To answer that question I studied tidal charts for October 12, 2014, the day I observed and reported the plume of sludge. What I found sent a chill up my spine.

The sludge took 3 1/2 hours (from 2:40 to 6:10) to transit from the south shore lagoon portal to just beyond the Park Street bridge. It had twice that distance to cover before tide changed at 9:21. It took the entire six-hour tidal cycle for the sludge to arrive at the mouth of the Oakand-Alameda Estuary, then the gooey mess would have been drawn right back up the same Estuary by the powerful ship channel current--BACK INTO SAN LEANDRO BAY WHERE SEABIRDS WERE ROOSTING FOR THE NIGHT!

Then the tide reversed again, and the process was repeated! For weeks, the deadly sludge I saw would have been transported back and forth along the Estuary between San Francisco Bay and San Leandro Bay, dousing hundreds of migrating seabirds again and again with layer after layer of toxic goo. (See illustration below, Image 1fx)

(click to enlarge photo)
Path of Sludge Ploom

Given the strength of the tide in the Estuary and the distance and speed of the tidewaters, whatever is carried out from San Leandro Bay is most likely to return on the next incoming tide. Then the process is repeated, endlessly.

Like a toilet flushing backward, the "bad stuff" kept returning. Alameda's Tidal Curse was a death trap for marine life.

The sludge's mass gradually diminished over time as some got deposited along the shoreline and bits were carried out into San Francisco Bay. But how long did that take, how many cycles? And how toxic were/are the residues to the seaweed and other marine life (fishes, barnacles, mussels, shrimps, crabs?)

San Leandro Bay's formerly robust marine life is feeding habitat for thousands of seabirds and their entire food chain. As food supply diminishes, so goes the seabird population.

The streaks of foam I saw April 12 (See Continuing Evidence of a Lethal Surfactant), if they are remnants of the initial October 2014 plume, could have returned hundreds of times during the intervening six months.

Migrant seabirds came here to fatten up for their return flight north, only to be drenched daily with a mixture of viscous chemical compounds we now know to be drilling mud (click here for April 19 blog identifying the Goo as drilling mud) and a lethal surfactant that got pushed farther and farther inland with each cycle.

Each successive dousing of surfactant would deposit another layer, to the point where death from hypothermia would result. A surfactant that might normally be considered harmless in a single dose would be lethal. (Click here for a detailed explanation of surfactants.)

Due to this Tidal Curse phenomenon, massive and lasting damage has likely been wreaked on the Estuary and San Leandro Bay as the tides have come and gone and layer after layer of toxic chemicals were deposited on rocks and seaweed and all forms of marine life and habitat, from pilings to bird feathers.

The chemical properties of a surfactant make it the ultimate toxin in a marine environment because surfactant molecules seek always to get between water and on-aqueous matter. Since essentially no marine life or habitat can escape a surfactant, its killing power is incalculable.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Continuing Evidence of a Lethal Surfactant

"When I think of the hundreds of birds killed, it is chilling to see this foam entering San Leandro Bay again, exactly six months later."

New Goo, or Remnants of the October Spill?

Either a surfactant is continuing to be released into the waters around Alameda or the foamy stuff in these photos is the remains of the initial plume I observed October 12, six months ago. Either way, the material needs to be sampled and tested. I have reported it but didn't call 911 because the volume wasn't massive. Should I have, given the previous responses to my calls?

Yesterday, April 12, I spotted this clear evidence of a surfactant along the northern (Oakland) shore of the Oakland-Alameda Estuary. Grey foam on saltwater usually indicates the presence of surfactant. For over a mile from the Fruitvale Bridge to San Leandro Bay, this unnatural-looking material (see Site 3 photo) clung to the shoreline and swirled in eddies on the slow incoming tide.

Using a reclaimed plastic pop bottle, I took a sample of several ounces and will hand it over to a  Hazardous Materials Specialist at Alameda County Department of Environmental Health today.

Following are my photos of yesterday's discovery.

Site 1 faces west and is the spot where I first noticed these new dregs of foam Sunday, April 12, six months to the day since the October spill. Here, a hundred or so yards east of the Fruitvale Bridge, a thin trail of greyish-tan foam drifts lazily in an eddy.

Site 2 is a few yards east of Site 1. It faces east and shows another eddy with foam, and a duck heading right for it.

Site 3 is a close-up of the foam in Site 2. All the sites have identical material--bubbles in a matrix of greyish-tan liquid. With few exceptions, the bubbles are strikingly uniform in diameter and highly resilient. They don't burst easily when touched by a solid object. Instead, they attempt to attach.

Ponder what this material would do to feathers. Repeated exposures would create layer upon layer of gummy film as each successive layer dried in the sun.

Site 4 is east of the High Street Bridge, a few hundred yards east of Site 3.

Site 5 is farther east. The control tower at Oakland Airport can be seen just beyond San Leandro Bay.

Site 6 is near the mouth to San Leandro Bay, facing the tip of Alameda Island.

Seabirds can be seen foraging among the foam.

Site 7 is at the mouth of San Leandro Bay.

That pin at about 1 o'clock is the tower at Oakland airport.

When I think of the hundreds of birds killed, it is chilling to see this foam on the shores of San Leandro Bay again, exactly six months later.

How many times has the tide returned, delivering this deadly foam?

I dropped off my sample at the County Environmental office around 5PM.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Catastrophic Ecological Risk in San Leandro Bay

"...the Seabird Massacre illustrates that greater awareness is needed by everyone."

Clapper rail (c/o Wikipedia)
The Alameda Seabird Massacre of 2015 has revealed the dawning of a new era of catastrophic ecological risk for San Leandro Bay and the birds and marine life that depend upon this habitat for their existence. The endangered clapper rail is among the species that live in this threatened habitat.

My research indicates that the mysterious "Mystery Goo" deaths of three hundred seabirds in January is tied to the plume of greyish-tan sludge I observed the previous October, described elsewhere on this web site (Click here for details), where I present the only plausible theory thus far advanced explaining the cause and source of the so-called "Mystery Bird Goo".

This mass execution of seabirds is under investigation by California's Department of Fish and Wildlife, but it is clear the material that killed them is of human origin. Laboratory analysis shows the gooey grey material matches drilling fluid used in earth-boring municipal projects such as laying conduit and sewer line.

But there is a bigger picture. The Bird Goo deaths are symptomatic of a systemic threat to Bay Area marine habit. Drought, dredging, street run-off and the use of toxic chemicals to control algae in Alameda's lagoons are all involved, but ignorance and indifference also play a role. This blog seeks to shed light on all these elements of threat to Bay Area marine life and habitat, not just "Bird Goo."

Rowers on Oakland-Alameda Estuary

The Role of Ignorance and Indifference
If you are taking a rowing class in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary, do you notice that flock of black birds you've been plowing through? Yes, the ones that make that whistling sound as their wings pump the air, scrambling to get out of your way. Those are  migrating surf scoters.

by Alan D. Wilson - NaturesPicsOnline
Surf scoters come to San Leandro Bay every year to escape the cold and fatten up for their return flight home: See Wikipedia on Surf Scoters. They're not yet endangered, but their numbers have been cut in half, thanks to human disregard and carelessness like the 2007 Coso Busan oil spill. (Click here for details on the Cosco Busan Oil Spill.)

Rowers need to avoid disturbing the waterfowl, but the Alameda Seabird Massacre illustrates how greater awareness is needed by everyone, not just rowing crews.

Tidal Currents
Tidal currents determined where the plume of sludge I observed last October was carried. A review of the currents surrounding Alameda zeroes-in on the magnitude of the problem.

Refer to Image 1fx below. The colored arrows show the direction of currents around Alameda Island. I know this from 13 years of observation during walks around the Island and from my ongoing research using NOAA* tidal charts. The red arrows indicate my observations of the sludge plume on October 12, 2104, from about 3:45PM until about 6:30PM. The blue arrow is the presumed flow of the sludge prior to my first observation, and the green arrows are my prediction of flows after it got dark.
Path of Toxic Plume

Naively, I had initially thought the sludge plume was carried all the way out through the Golden Gate Bridge after I left, but the NOAA charts indicate the tide reversed at 9:21PM. There wasn't enough time for the sludge to make it much farther than the mouth of the Estuary. From the speed of the plume and the distance to San Francisco Bay, not much of it could have cleared the western tip of Alameda Island before the tide reversed.

As indicated by the green arrows, around 9:30 the plume could have gone in three directions: a) south toward San Leandro and Hayward, b) south, then east along Alameda's south shore or c) due east, right back up the Oakland-Alameda Estuary. The strong current where the Estuary meets the San Francisco Bay would have pulled the vast majority of the plume right back where it came from--to San Leandro Bay.

Then, because of the strong Oakland-Alameda ship channel current, the bulk of the sludge kept going back and forth in the Estuary between San Landro Bay and San Francisco Bay, day after day, week after week, until hundreds of birds were saturated with the goo and began to die.

If, as I maintain elsewhere in this blog, the goo is partially a surfactant, it would have taken repeated exposures for the material to accumulate sufficiently to be lethal. The "goo" is not a one-time exposure event, but an accumulation of months of repeated exposuresa, layer upon layer, of some clarifying foming agent, drilling mud and surfactant imbeded with the various dissolved and undissolved solids that is was designed to adsorb**.

Water depth and volume determine the strength of these currents. Several years ago the Oakland ship channel was deepened from 42 feet to 50 feet. As would be expected, the tide in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary rips along much faster than anywhere else along Alameda's shoreline. The unintended consequence: an ecological death trap for endangered species in San Leandro Bay.

According to a city engineer, the discharge from Alameda's finger lagoons had always gone due south, toward the Hayward tidal flats. On the day my friend and I saw the plume, that certainly was not the case, and I suspect this is a permanent change in tidal currents because of a build-up of sediment off Alameda's southern shoreline, as illustrated by Images 1w, 1z? and 1zk.

The shallow areas are tan to beige and the deepest areas are dark blue. The shallowest area is just west of the Otis Street Bridge, where the portals for two lagoons empty into the Alameda-Bay Farm Island channel.

Note also the shallow areas in San Leandro Bay, where two deltas have been formed by effluent from the four natural estuaries. Sediment is being delivered to San Lenadro Bay daily from nearby streets and neighborhoods when people water lawns and wash cars. When it rains, the high volume flushes these sediments farther out, into the estuaries and into San Francisco Bay. During drought, this flushing doesn't occur, and sediment accumulates. Deltas grow larger.

As shown in Images 1z? and 1zk, A man-made delta appears to be forming in the Alameda-Bay Farm channel. This delta is man-made because the sediments come primarily from the two nearby lagoon weirs. The lack of spring rains would naturally accelerate this accumulation of sediment, and it is logical that this build-up would play a key role in offshore tidal currents and could help in accounting for the shift that surprised the city engineer.

An Alarming Conclusion
The alarming consequence of this shift in prevailing tidal currents is that toxic effluent from Alameda's finger lagoons is being drawn by the strong Estuary tidal current through San Leandro Bay, causing an unprecedented, potentially catastrophic threat to the marine ecosystem there and particularly to endangered species such as the clapper rail. In a separate post I have enumerated a list of birds I have personally observed in San Leandro Bay. There are many, many more.

The depth of the ship channel isn't going to change, and, short of a series of torrential storms, the sediment build-up isn't going away. So, to prevent catastrophic damage to the marine ecosystem of San Leandro Bay, we must STOP USING CHEMICALS IN ALAMEDA'S FINGER LAGOONS.

*National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
**Merriam-WebsterDefinition of ADSORPTION :the adhesion in an extremely thin layer of molecules (as of gases, solutes, or liquids) to the surfaces of solid bodies or liquids with which they are in contact — compare absorption