Clean Ocean Action

Clean Ocean Advocate, January 2005

Delaware River Blackened by Oil

Within 10 months, a second oil spill fouled another part of New Jersey’s coastline (see March 2004 Ocean Advocate).  The most recent spill occurred when the Athos I dumped as much as 473,500 gallons of heavy Venezuelan crude oil (group 4 oil) in the Delaware River near Paulsboro, NJ, on November 26.  Two gashes were found in its hull—6x1.5 feet and 1.5x2.5 feet.  The Athos I, a Greek tanker, is a 750-foot single-hulled tanker, which is to be phased out by 2010.


Crude oil is the hardest oil to contain in a spill because it is so heavy.  Much of the oil is now on the bottom of the River, making cleanup challenging.  Tar balls are expected on south Jersey beaches in the coming weeks.


As the oil moves with wind, weather, and tides, it continues to significantly impact water quality, drinking water sources, and wildlife.  Oil sheens and oiled birds have been found in NJ, Pennsylvania, and Delaware tributaries.  Early estimates show hundreds of birds, including some Bald Eagles, have been injured or killed.  Over time, contaminants from the oil will be absorbed by wildlife in and around the River and tributaries and will be passed up the food chain, affecting the quality of the Delaware ecosystem for years to come.


The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is heading the effort to hold the appropriate parties responsible and to ensure that natural resource damages (NRD) are assessed.  Bradley Campbell, Commissioner of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), said NJ will pursue NRD action.


At press time, the cause of the spill was still being determined.  Federal investigators believe a possible cause was a pipe three feet in diameter and 15 feet long, located 700 feet from the Citgo pier, the destination for the tanker.

Citizens Can Help

  • DRN seeks volunteer monitors and citizens to help document the extent of the oil spill.  Call Faith Zerbe, DRN Monitoring Coordinator at 215-369-1188.
  • Take a walk on your local beach, especially in South Jersey.  If you see tar balls or other evidence of oil, call 267-765-3439.  If you find an injured bird or animal, call the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge at 215-365-1558.
  • For updates on the spill and important telephone numbers, visit or

Delaware Oil Spill by the Numbers

  • 126 miles of River and shoreline impacted
  • Up to 473,500 gallons of oil dumped in the River
  • Over 18,800 gallons of oil-water mixture collected
  • 22 miles of boom laid out
  • Over 129 birds confirmed dead
  • 198 oiled birds captured; of which, 126 have been cleaned
  • Over 1,700 people involved in cleanup
    (as of 12/13/04)

49 Avenel Blvd.
Long Branch, NJ 07740

Field Office:

Gateway National Recreation Area
Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Voice: (732) 872-0111
FAX: (732) 872-8041

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