Ghost Fleet to be Cleaned Up and Removed from Suisun Bay
The U.S. Maritime Administration, the federal agency responsible for San Francisco Bay’s ghost fleet, has agreed to clean up and remove the abandoned and decaying ships from the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet.
A settlement agreement announced today resolves a long-running legal battle over the decaying fleet between MARAD and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Arc Ecology, San Francisco Baykeeper, and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Under the settlement, which must be approved by the Court, MARAD will permanently remove all of the obsolete vessels for disposal by September 2017, starting with the worst ships first. More immediately, MARAD will get rid of the piles of hazardous paint chips from vessel decks within 120 days and, by September of next year, clean all peeling paint from the exteriors of the 25 worst ships while in dry dock.
More than 20 tons of heavy metals -- including lead, zinc, copper and cadmium -- have already fallen, blown or washed off the ships into the water, according to a MARAD-commissioned analysis. If not cleaned up, the vessels were projected to lose as much as an additional 50 tons of heavy metals in future years, as they succumbed to time and weather.
The environmental groups sued in 2007 to force MARAD to halt the discharge of toxic heavy metals and to clean up the vessels, which are moored near Benicia. The Regional Water Board joined the suit a year later. In January, Judge Garland Burrell sided with the plaintiffs and ruled that the decaying ships are illegally polluting the Bay.
Suisun Bay is critical habitat for several endangered and threatened species, including Chinook salmon and delta smelt. The State of California has warned residents to limit consumption of fish caught in Suisun Bay due to pollution levels. The Ghost Fleet is moored in Suisun Bay, which is just west and downstream of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
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