The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Study: Most shipwrecks a minor pollution threat

WASHINGTON -- A new government report details 87 shipwrecks -- most sunk during World War II decades ago -- that could pollute U.S. waters with tens of millions of gallons of oil.
Even so, the potential for pollution is less than scientists had expected. The report released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concludes "the scope of the problem is much more manageable than initially feared.... Our coastlines are not littered with `ticking time bombs."'
Agency officials estimate that far less oil will leak into the ocean than the BP oil spill of 2010, which spewed roughly 200 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico alone.
"That's not a bad number in comparison to what we first thought it would be," said NOAA's Lisa Symons, who wrote the study.
There are 20,000 shipwrecked vessels that lie off the nation's coastlines. Most of those either finished leaking long ago, ran on coal instead of oil, are too small or aren't near vulnerable land.
"There are only six that really keep me up at night, but we don't know where they all really are," Symons said. Those six have the biggest potential to foul coastal areas because even if they spill only 10 percent of their oil, they could cause a local-scale disaster, she said. They don't have to be a worst-case spill to be a disaster.
Of those six, Symons said NOAA doesn't know the exact location of three of them, just where they were last seen before they sank. Three of the six worst potential problems are off Florida, one near Georgia, one near South Carolina and one near New York. Some are as close as 15 miles from shore.
Of the overall 87 ships identified as potential polluters, 52 were lost in World War II, mostly up and down the Atlantic coastline.
Others were lost in crashes, fires and storms, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. The story of that ship's sinking in Lake Superior was turned into a classic 1970s ballad. Two ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, aren't even in U.S. waters but are close enough they can pollute American waters, NOAA officials said.
The agency has identified 17 ships that have a known location and that need to be investigated further to see if the oil could be removed. Removing oil in advance, before it leaks, is far easier than waiting till after it spills into the water, Symons said.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Photo galleries

» More HeraldNet galleries

HeraldNet highlights

A haircut for a dollar?
A haircut for a dollar?: At Everett barber school, it'll only cost you a hair
What's your number?
What's your number?: Find out what your Seahawks jersey says about you
Cooking for kickoff
Cooking for kickoff: Football-themed recipes for your Super Bowl crowd
Medieval times
Medieval times: Members of the kingdom of An Tir gather in Monroe
SnoCoSocial