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Oil spill at UC Berkeley sends fuel into Strawberry Creek

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A worker places absorbant plume onto oil in Strawberry Creek.


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DECEMBER 11, 2011

More than a thousand gallons of diesel fuel — of the 1,700 spilled total — escaped from Stanley Hall and could have entered Strawberry Creek, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

After an equipment failure Saturday caused a tank to overflow in the basement of Stanley Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, 1,290 gallons of oil flowed out of the building, although the exact amount that went into the creek, and the San Francisco Bay, remains unknown. As of Sunday evening, emergency crews were working to clean up the approximately 1,700 gallons of oil spilled, and the building was closed to the public. By 7:30 a.m. Monday, the building had re-opened in time for final exams, according to Gilmore.

Gilmore said in an email that although it has not yet been determined how much oil made its way into Strawberry Creek — which flows through campus and ends in the Bay — “the public is asked to stay out of the creek.”

She added that the clean up, monitoring and assessing of the condition of the creek as well as the Bay will continue tomorrow.

A faint smell of fuel could be detected near the hall Sunday, where cars and trucks from Berkeley Fire Department, UCPD, the California Department of Fish and Game, UC Berkeley Physical Plant-Campus Services, UC Berkeley Parking & Transportation, among others lined the curb outside.

The fuel, which is used to power an emergency generator in the building, overflowed while being transferred from a storage tank nearby Saturday evening. As of 9 p.m. Saturday, the leak was contained. Gilmore said in an email Sunday evening that the exact cause of the equipment failure remains unknown.

A sign posted on the doors of the hall — a large building near the northeast corner of campus — states that the building is closed until further notice, citing “toxic fumes and potential of ignition.”

“UCPD, Fire Department, EH&S and building management notified,” the sign reads. “Haz Mat team dispatched.”

Contact Soumya Karlamangla at 


DECEMBER 12, 2011