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.

More in Local News

Departing mayor’s locally drawn portrait joins city’s pantheon

Artist Elizabeth Person’s portrait of Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson will hang with others at City Hall.

Inslee proposes tapping reserves, carbon tax in budget plan

The proposal also includes money for the mental health system and efforts to fight opioid addiction.

One dead in crash south of Granite Falls

Two cars collided near the intersection of N. Lake Roesiger Road and Hidden Valley Road.

2 women struck, injured while crossing busy roads

The first happened Wednesday night in Everett. The second was Thursday morning in Edmonds.

Lynnwood robbery leads to lockdown at Edmonds schools

Edmonds police said it was just a precaution as they search around Edmonds-Woodway High School.

Marysville 7-Eleven hit by armed robbers

Officers set up a perimeter and brought in a police dog, but the man couldn’t be found.

Snohomish man, 63, missing from home since Monday

He left without his keys, wallet and phone, saying something about going to “the river.”

Counties fed up with unfunded mandates may sue the state

For example, no money has been provided to install, maintain and clear out required ballot boxes.

Firefighters come to the rescue and give mom new stroller

Donations to the Good Neighbor Program covered the $143.20 cost.

Most Read