Monday, May 11, 2015

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.

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