Removal of sunken vessel in Penn Cove to begin soon
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Removal of sunken vessel in Penn Cove to begin soon 
 

 

WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES * U.S. COAST GUARD
WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY * WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
ISLAND COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
                                                                                                         
May 22, 2012

Removal of sunken vessel in Penn Cove to begin soon

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and partners announced today that plans are moving forward to remove the fishing vessel Deep Sea from where it sank in Penn Cove on Whidbey Island.

“I’m impressed with the coordinated effort to contain the vessel’s hazardous liquids and prevent further damage,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “The Coast Guard and the dive team have worked diligently to remove as much of the contamination as possible and to make an initial assessment of the condition of the vessel.”

Reports from the dive team show that after the vessel sank, it landed on its port side and settled into the mud in 50 to 60 feet of water. Due to the vessel’s position, the tanks on the port side are only accessible through18 inches of concrete, making it cost prohibitive to drill through to determine if there is any fuel left and, if found, to siphon out any excess fuel.

“As long as the boat stays on the bottom of the cove, we won’t be able to control how much fuel and other pollutants might leak from it,” Goldmark said. “Right now, pollutants are being contained by booms, but we can’t keep booms around the boat forever. It’s in the best interest of the environment and the shellfish industry to remove the vessel as soon as possible.”

The longer the vessel remains in Penn Cove, the more it will become covered in sediment and the harder it will be to raise it. Already, half of the wheelhouse is filled with mud.

The Washington State Department of Ecology has a dive company on contract through its oil spill emergency response fund, which will help to expedite the removal of the vessel.

A shellfish harvest closure by the Washington State Department of Health remains in effect. The state health shellfish program will use federal guidance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Food and Drug Administration to decide when it’s safe to reopen the shellfish harvest areas. Shellfish harvest in the area will reopen when the pollution source is contained, the oil sheen is cleared from the area, and tests taken after shellfish have purged any pollutants show that they’re safe to eat.

“The coordinated response by our state, federal, and local partners will help ensure Puget Sound has the clean water necessary to safeguard our economy and the food we eat,” said Gerry O’Keefe, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “Effectively preventing and responding to oil spills is a regional priority for cleaning-up Puget Sound.”

DNR continues to work with enforcement and investigators at the appropriate agencies to ensure that the responsible owner is held accountable for the damages and cost to remove and scrap the vessel.

Partners in the coordinated effort and their roles

  • DNR manages the state-owned aquatic lands where the vessel sank. DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program is legally able to remove the vessel under the Derelict Vessel Act and will provide funding (through a recently approved special legislative appropriation) to remove the vessel. 
  • The U.S. Coast Guard is the federal pollution response agency, which was on the scene through last Friday.
  • The Washington State Department of Ecology is responsible for containing and cleaning up diesel fuel and petroleum spills and other pollutants that may continue to leak from the vessel.
  • The Washington State Department of Health monitors the conditions for the safety of shellfish harvesting.
  • Island County Department of Emergency Management provides local government liaison and coordination.

Media Contacts:

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360-902-1016
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