Authorities investigate mysterious oil-like substance on Berkeley shoreline

EBRPD put up an ‘Oil Spill’ sign on the Berkeley shoreline while it investigates what the substance is. It is likely not oil, but that was the only sign they had to hand. Photo, shared on Twitter on Feb. 8, by David Weisz

East Bay Regional Park District is investigating an unknown substance that seems to have seeped up through the ground on the banks of the Berkeley shoreline last week.

The oil-like substance was first spotted on Feb. 3 in the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, between the City of Berkeley sports field and the North Basin Strip, according to EBRPD spokeswoman Isa Polt-Jones.

“We have sent the substance to the lab and are waiting to have it tested,” Park Supervisor Scott Possin told Berkeleyside Friday. Possin said he examined the substance and did not think it was oil. “I don’t know what it is and I’m reluctant to speculate,” he said, “but I don’t think it’s petro-chemical.”

Whatever it was, it had disappeared by Monday, and Possin stressed that it did not make contact with the water. Neither does EBRPD believe the substance made contact with any wildlife.


Once the substance appeared, EBRPD sent water-management staff to investigate the site, and the City of Berkeley sent hazardous materials staff out for an inspection. Environmental scientists from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife took samples and are running tests. Stellar Environment, a contractor based in Berkeley, is also running tests, according to EBRPD.

Possin said he had not seen anything similar in the six years he has been on the job, but he pointed out that the site is former landfill and that there has been “extraordinary rainfall” recently, which might have created unusual conditions.

EBRPD is keeping the area closed until the test results are in, which could be up to a few weeks.