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Opinion: Shouldn’t We Be Part of the Cleanup?

The past week has been a heart-breaker for all of those Alameda and East Bay residents who love their beaches, their birds and their environment.

For those of us who may have casually wondered before what an oil spill would look like, we unfortunately got our answer.

The U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with state and county agencies was in charge.

The “guilty party,” meaning the owner of the Dubai Star, outsourced the cleanup. And these outsourced cleaners outsourced much of the hands-on cleanup work on Alameda’s beaches and shoreline.

While it’s true that many local bird-watchers got indirectly involved by staying in touch with wildlife officials and volunteer organizations, there was no real direct work for those Alamedans who care deeply about the local environment and who want to act when they see the environment being devastated.

Certainly, the oil spill was considered hazardous, and the mess that showed up on the Alameda shoreline was toxic.

Still, residents are asking, “Why couldn’t we help?”

Over the next few weeks, that question will be put to local, state and other officials.

It seems that those who most care about their own environment and its impact should be able to have an important role in how it is cared for, especially after a trajedy such as the Dubai Star oil spill.

Such a role needs to be carefully crafted in advance, so that damage to Alameda can be further minimized in the future. It’s worth exploring — not just for the nearly 40 birds that were rescued and lived, or for the 24 birds that have died, but for all the wildlife that’s been affected and the thousands of us who want the environment — our environment — to be protected from such preventable destruction.