Columbia River —- Oil Cleanup Continues

Efforts to stabilize stern aimed at allowing divers to enter area, remove oil. The beached former Liberty ship Davy Crockett was run aground on the Columbia River near Camas last week. Structural instability is complicating efforts to locate the source of oil leaking from the vessel. Washington State Department of Ecology. Derelict vessel’s structural problems complicate cleanup. Workers on Monday will begin ballasting operations to stabilize the stern of the Davy Crockett, the derelict vessel on the Columbia River west of Camas. “Once the stern is stabilized, that will allow our divers to enter the area safely and survey and remove oil that could be in compartments,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Kelly Parker. Parker said workers also will continue to remove oil. Work continued on the cleanup of the 431-foot vessel Sunday. On the environmental front, officials say they have detected low levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from oil recovered from the Crockett. The cleanup involves the Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Interior, Coast Guard Auxiliary and other agencies. The effort began Thursday after Ecology received a report of a light, non-recoverable sheen coming form the area of the Crockett. The sheen was first reported Jan. 21, the Coast Guard said. On Sunday, crews secured two lines to hold the stern section of the vessel to the bow. Also, workers started ballasting operations in an effort to stabilize the vessel. A press release said, “Diving operations are ongoing and dependent on safety and stability. Cleanup and containment efforts continue on and around the barge.” A 500-yard, no-wake safety zone is still in effect around the Davy Crockett. Boaters are being asked to use caution when in the area. “As the federal on-scene coordinator, I can attest to the dedication of the multi-agency responders,” said Coast Guard Capt. Douglas E. Kaup, commanding officer of Sector Columbia River. “Our primary goals are to safely remove the oil from this barge and prevent further contamination of the Columbia River.” Kaup said 52 members of federal, state and local agencies, as well as industry, are working on the problem. He cited these figures: • Approximately 1,200 gallons of oil have been recovered. • About 18,000 feet of absorbent boom is deployed around the vessel. • Approximately 300 feet of absorbent boom is deployed inside the Crockett. • About 2,800 feet of hard boom is deployed around the vessel. • One skimmer is being used. • Seven work crews and vessels are on the job. • Two spud barges are being used to stabilize the stern of the Davy Crockett. Environmental assessment Oil samples taken from the vessel’s engine room hold detected approximately 3.44 parts per million (ppm) of PCBs, state ecology officials said. Federal regulations for PCBs in oil require specialized handling and disposal for levels at 50 ppm or greater. Environmental and public health agencies’ regulations vary as to what constitutes acceptable concentrations of PCBs, Ecology officials said. Federal regulations require that water containing PCBsmust be below 0.003 ppm — roughly the equivalent of one tablespoon in 1.3 million gallons — to be discharged to navigable waters. “The PCB-containing oil released from the barge is not an immediate public health risk,” said David McBride, a toxicologist with the Washington State Department of Health. “Existing advisories warn people to not eat any freshwater shellfish in the lower Columbia River, due to pre-existing contamination from historic releases of PCB.” PCBs belong to a broad family of man-made organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. PCBs were domestically manufactured from 1929 until their manufacture was banned in 1979. PCBs have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “We remind people to avoid direct contact with any oily sheen they may encounter in the water,” said Michael Heumann, an epidemiologist with the Public Health Division at the Oregon Health Authority in Portland. The Davy Crockett, a 431-foot World War II Liberty ship that was converted to a barge more than 40 years ago, has been derelict on the north bank of the Columbia River for years. It’s been in the process of sinking for a year and a half, the Coast Guard says. It began breaking up last week and leaking oil that reached as far downstream as the Port of Vancouver. The ship is owned by Brett Simpson of Ellensburg. Attempts to reach Simpson have failed. ((30 JAN 2011))







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