NOAA Report Traces Potential Oil Pollution From Shipwrecks

NOAA Report Traces Potential Oil Pollution From Shipwrecks

May 14, 1942 – U.S. Army Air Corps photograph of the burning tanker Potrero del Llano. Source: National Archives in College Park, Md.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has presented to the U.S. Coast Guard a new report that found that 36 sunken vessels strewn across the U.S. seafloor could pose an oil pollution threat to the nation’s coast marine resources.

Of those 36 vessels, 17 were recommended for further assessment and potential removal of both fuel oil and oil cargo. They include a barge lost in rough seas in 1936, two ships that sank in separate collisions in 1947 and 1952 and a tanker that exploded and sank in 1984. The remaining sites are 13 merchant marine ships lost during World War II, primarily along East and Gulf coasts.

The report, part of NOAA’s Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats project, identified the location and nature of potential sources of oil pollution from sunken vessels. Knowing where these vessels are helps oil response planning efforts and may help in the investigation of reported mystery spills for sightings of oil where a source is not known.

“Now that we have analyzed this data, the Coast Guard will be able to evaluate NOAA’s recommendations and determine the most appropriate response to potential threats,” said Lisa Symons, resource protection coordinator for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, in a written statement.