The Vallejo Ferry service on California’s San Pablo Bay was temporarily suspended overnight into Wednesday morning as the Coast Guard and emergency responders investigated two possible oil spills.

At around 8 p.m. Tuesday, Coast Guard Sector San Francisco received a call via Vessel Traffic Service from the crew of the Intintoli, a 134’6”x39’x6’6” catamaran ferry, who reported a strong smell of oil while they were transiting near Rodeo and Vallejo.

Other reports of a sheen on the water came in from crew members out of the Vallejo Coast Guard station, and other ferries in the area. In response, pollution investigators from both the Coast Guard and California Department of Fish and Wildlife were dispatched to various San Pablo Bay area locations.

Meanwhile on shore, reports of an oil-like smell came from residents in Vallejo’s Glen Cove and Beverly Hills Parks neighborhoods, with people feeling ill from the odor showing up at the local hospital. City officials issued a shelter-in-place order for several hours while firefighters checked for natural gas leaks or other possible sources.

Coast Guard boat searches near Vallejo and Mare Island did not detect locate any sheens. At around 7:40 a.m., a Coast Guard helicopter crew took off to conduct a first light overflight of the area, and spotted a sheen just over a mile long by 40 yards wide on the water in the northern San Pablo Bay area. Ferry service resumed in Vallejo around that time Wednesday morning.

The helicopter crew sighted a second sheen near the Phillips 66 Rodeo Refinery Marine Terminal. In a joint operation including the Coast Guard, partner agencies and the company, several vessels and skimmers were deployed for containment and cleanup operations, with 1,000' of boom floated to surround the affected waters. No oiled wildlife were seen, Coast Guard officials said.

No sources have been identified for either of the sheens. Coast Guard and state pollution investigators sampled the first sheen detected by the air crew, and the investigation is continuing. Operations were temporarily suspended at the Phillips 66 facility, and a unified command established with the Coast Guard, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Contra Costa County’s Hazardous Materials Department and Phillips 66.


Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.