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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has analysed 20,000 shipwrecks in US waters to determine the potential oil spill threat that they pose, and then presented their report to the Coast Guard.
Lisa Symons, the resources protection coordinator for NOAA’S Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, said that the “report is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the potential oil pollution threats from shipwrecks in U.S. waters. Now that we have analysed this data, the Coast Guard will be able to evaluate NOAA's recommendations and determine the most appropriate response to potential threats.”
It turns out that most of the 20,000 ships were either too small to worry about, ran on coal, not oil, or merely all the oil leaked out of them long ago.
However the study did find that 87 of the ships, 52 of those sunk during World War II (mostly by German U-boats), have the potential to spill tens of millions of gallons of crude oil in US waters. Although the government scientists involved in the research state that only six of the wrecks pose any serious threat to the environment, or local economies.
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17 of the more dangerous wrecks that NOAA surveyed, and into which it would like further investigation.
One of the biggest dangers is the oil tanker W.D. Anderson, which was sunk by two torpedoes as it sailed along the Florida coastline in February 1942, as it is feared to contain as much as 5.6 million gallons of crude oil in its tanks.
Symons said that even if those six spill just ten percent of their oil, it could easily cause a local-scale disaster, which while not being the worst spill ever on a national level, would certainly devastate local communities.
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The report tries to play down the threat posed by these sunken ships, claiming that even if all 87 voided their entire cargo of oil, the resulting spill would be less than half the size of the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico disaster which saw 200 million gallons leak into the sea.
Mmmmmm … that isn’t really the most comforting of thoughts, as even something approaching half the size of that environmental catastrophe would still be a devastating blow to marine habitats, and coastal cities and economies.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…
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I would think that the amount of oil involved is so little (i.e. 5.6 million gallons) and the potential liability so high that no oil/salvage company would take on the challenge. Considering a liability point of view (EPA and private lawsuits), there is utterly no reason to get near those wrecks for any reason.
Any company involved would definitely need government assurances to mitigate the liability and funding to offset the costs involved.