Senator proposes bill following 'mystery goo' spill in Bay

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The so-called "mystery goo" spill in the East Bay in January is sparking a call for change.

State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco wants to make state funds available to help wildlife during non-petroleum based spills. Right now, the funding kicks in only with petroleum-based oil spills.

"This is a bit of a loophole," Sen. Mark Leno explained. "But we think we've found a way to fill it." Leno is proposing Senate Bill 718. It would free up $500,000 from the Office of Spill Prevention and Response to help respond to a spill like the mystery goo one.

The money would be paid back when a responsible party is found. In the case of the mystery goo, Leno said there should be discussion about fines. "There should be an aggravated fine because they've been hiding the truth all this time."

Senate Bill 718 was sparked by Leno's frustration with the state's mystery spill response. "Really? There wasn't any other way to deal with this mishap as it was unfolding," Leno asked himself. "And the fact was; there really wasn't. We got the best out of a bad situation."

That's because non-profit groups like International Bird Rescue in Fairfield stepped up without a ready funding source. "A couple weeks' worth of this and we realized, wow, this is a lot of animals to take care of," said International Bird Rescue spokesman, Russ Curtis. "It does start to sit in the back of your mind, how are we going to pay for this?"

Donations have covered about 85 percent of International Bird Rescue's $150,000 bill. The total cost for all non-profits that responded to the mystery goo spill tops $300,000. Curtis said if state money had been available right away, more birds could have been rescued.

"The biggest place this event could have been better managed was in the search and collection," pointed out International Bird Rescue veterinarian, Rebecca Duerr. "Their (the birds') condition starts to deteriorate really quickly, so the faster they can get captured, the better they are."

To date, 161 birds have been released back to the Bay. There are still 11 "goo birds" in rehabilitation. Most of them had to have partial amputations of their feet. "I always want them to get released," said Duerr. "Because then I don't have to worry about them anymore."