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Sunken tug boat leaking oil and fuel in the San Joaquin Delta

Leaking oil from sunken tug boat in San Joaquin Delta a concern
Leaking oil from sunken tug boat in San Joaquin Delta a concern 02:32

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY - Authorities are warning that a sunken tug boat in the Delta is leaking diesel fuel and oil.  

According to the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office, the submerged boat is in the Empire Tract area, near Herman and Helen's. The Office of Spill Prevention and Response says a plan to clean up the spilled oil and salvage the boat is being developed. 

"Some of these larger vessels, these tug boats, they're older so a leak like this. It's not an if but when this can happen," said Heather Brent with the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office.

So far, the spill doesn't appear to have impacted wildlife, officials say.

The sheriff's office says it was simply an accident. 

"It definitely wasn't something that was intentional. We have vessels out here that are older and a leak is always a possibility," Brent said.

But was this boat part of a worrying trend of other vessels being abandoned in the Delta? The Department of Fish and Wildlife says no. 

"This was an old tug boat, a historic tug boat that was being restored, and something happened where it took on water and ended up underwater," said Eric Laughlin with Fish & Wildlife.

Office of Spill Prevention and Response

The sheriff's office's Boating Safety Unit was at the scene, coordinating efforts to contain the spill, they say. Outside agencies were also called to assist, including Environmental Health, Office of Emergency Services, Fish & Wildlife, Woodbridge Fire Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard Pollution Response Team.

"They're developing a salvage plan right now to get a contractor out there to remove the vessel, remove the threat," Laughlin said.

Boaters are urged to avoid the area, and those already in the area are urged to use caution. 

No timetable for when they will be able to get the boat out of the water has been released. 

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