ST. SIMONS SOUND, Georgia. – Environmentalists are working to determine whether Tropical Storm Elsa exacerbated existing problems resulting from the stranded Golden Ray wreck.
The containment barriers around the wrecked cargo were removed before Elsa arrived. And environmentalists understand the move was necessary, but fear it may have led to more environmental problems caused by the tropical storm’s fury.
“We are concerned that there is already a lot of fuel in the water and that there is no protection of these environmentally sensitive areas that were previously contained with this containment dam,” said Fletcher Sams, the warden of the Altamaha River. “We want to see what the impacts may be there.
“We want to see if there is any new oiling,” Sams said. “We saw fuel in the water until Tuesday. So when they removed the dams, there would probably still be fuel in the water. “
The ship has been wrecked since September 8, 2019. It overturned while heading for the sea with a cargo of 4,200 vehicles. As crews dismantled it and efforts were made to minimize the impact on the environment, oil spilled into nearby ocean waters and onto beaches in the area.
With Elsa, there were no mitigation teams when the storm moved. The Altamaha Riverkeeper is concerned about environmentally sensitive areas, places where birds nest and areas where oil has already escaped could be further compromised.
“There’s not much you can do about the oiled weed other than removing it,” Sams said. “What they did was spray a chemical on it that knocked the oil into the sediment so the birds were left oil-free, but it created a new problem with aquatic life.
“There’s no suppression with this application technique that they do. They just transfer it from one place to another in the environment,” according to Sams.
The crews initially opted for a riskier demolition plan designed to have the ship pulled out by the 2020 hurricane season. It’s here in 2021 and what promises to be a very active hurricane season – and it doesn’t. just started. We have already seen five named storms. Sams fears the environmental problems in Southeast Georgia will only get worse.
“The first game in removing the ship was to pry open the skin of the ship, remove all the contaminants… and the cargo, and then dismantle it in small sections using the outer skin of the ship to contain one of those contaminants. ”Sams said. “Well, it was going to take four months and that was early 2020. They went with a much riskier plan that is being adopted to earn a month to beat the hurricane season in 2020. Here, we’re in the middle of the hurricane season in 2021 – 17 months later and it’s still almost halfway there and all of the risks that have been outlined in this debate on where to go are now coming to fruition, ”Sams said.
Sams worries that more problems are on the horizon.
“Even after these two major spills we don’t see any additional assets being sent to the area and if we know the EP barrier is not working because the oil is leaking out of it and we know there is no enough assets to contain the oil that’s coming in. outside EPB because it’s hitting our shores, “he said.” So why do we still allow them to operate on the same plan that already has failed twice in a month? “
Sams said it was time for the Coast Guard and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to start holding someone to account. He hinted that it could be the owners of the Golden Ray and the company responsible for dismantling the wreck.
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