updated 10/16/2007 3:45:22 PM ET 2007-10-16T19:45:22

Crews have completed a cleanup of an extensive oil spill that fouled rocky shoreline and mangrove thickets along Puerto Rico's southwest coast, but pollution investigators are still searching for the spill's cause.

Roughly 19,000 gallons of contaminated water have been siphoned from the Caribbean Sea since the spill slicked miles of coastline in late August, and 1,000 cubic yards of oily debris have been gathered by cleanup crews clad in protective suits and boots, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.

"We will continue to thoroughly investigate this incident and monitor the affected area in case any new recoverable oil is identified that needs to be cleaned up," said Capt. James E. Tunstall, commander of Coast Guard operations in the eastern Caribbean.

Marshland and mangroves in the western section of the town of La Parguera are still surrounded by a floating absorbent boom, but the protective barrier is expected to be removed before the end of the week.

"We're definitely happy they did such a good job cleaning the area up," said Angel Rovira, owner of a dive shop that ferries tourists and locals to a pristine coral reef several miles off the southwest coast of the U.S. Caribbean territory.

The nearly two-month effort to clean more than 30 miles of coastline from Guayanilla Bay to La Parguera cost more than $6 million.

Coast Guard investigators have indicated that New York-based General Maritime Corp., which owns and operates a fleet of crude oil tankers, is the likely source of the spill. A tanker owned by the company, the Genmar Progress, was anchored in the area when drifting bands of oil were first reported.

In late September, U.S. pollution investigators boarded the 1991-built tanker while it was docked in Port Arthur, Texas.

In a Monday phone interview, General Maritime spokesman Darrel Wilson said the company is cooperating fully with authorities, but stressed it has yet to be determined that its ship is definitely to blame.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments