A call from work with terrible news interrupted my Saturday morning routine.
It went something like this, "Noah, there is an oil spill in Salt Lake City. Apparently 50 gallons a minute are spewing into the Red Butte Creek. We have photographers on the scene and need you to cover this disaster."
I quickly discussed the details with assignments desk manager Jessica Gail. We made a plan and then moved forward.
The ABC 4 Newsroom was quietly and efficiently buzzing with phone calls and planning. We quickly found answers to very important and basic questions like, what does the oil spill mean for the people in Salt Lake City and who or what will it impact most?
I was relieved to learn the spill would not harm drinking water and no human lives were in danger. Relief!
Unfortunately, animals were in terrible peril.
Liberty Park was another swarm of activity.
I stepped down from the live truck and looked up. The scene was shocking.
Beyond the large tanker trucks sucking up hundreds of gallons of thick black crude from the water, I could see ducks and geese running from their would be captors. They were unable to fly because of the thick oil in their feathers and on their skin. The disoriented birds put up a good fight. One goose even bit a girl in the face. You can see her wound in the link attached to this blog.
I later drove to the Hogle Zoo with photographer Randy Kendell. The ducks and geese were in large pens. It was a sad sad sight. It was a cold day and the animals were vulnerable to the elements. You see crude oil destroys the water proof barrier around the ducks and geese allowing water to flow next to their skin. Hypothermia was probably setting in.
One by one the animals were carried into an empty bear exhibit where they were cleaned in tubs of water and Dawn dish soap. It would require between three and four baths to remove the oil from one animal (Zoo employees say Dawn is best at cutting through crude oil). One worker told me she had to wash one feathered animal 15 times to get all the oil out.
The workers dumped the oily bath water into a holding pond where it would sit for a hazardous waste truck to pump it out and treat it in a refinery.
Next, the poor drenched animals were carried to an animal hospital where their beaks were swabbed, their eyes were treated with eye drops, and a small hose was pressed down their throats to inject a charcoal mixture. It helps remove oil from digestive systems.
Finally the animals were returned to holding cages where they would recover. The geese will be relocated to Clear Lake Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. This was the plan before the oil spill. The ducks will return to Salt Lake City.
I've have covered tornadoes, an ice storm, and an inland hurricane. This was my first oil spill. It was probably the hardest to watch because it was man-made and unfolded in slow motion. It's especially hard to watch helpless creatures suffer.
Chevron is responsible for the disaster. Apparently an electric arc put a quarter size hole in the pipe line. The company says it was a freak accident. It is promising to clean the damage. I would like the company to promise oil spills will never happen again. Of course it can't. No company can.
I just don't ever want to see innocent animals suffer again like I did this June.