A year ago, Baykeeper successfully settled our lawsuit to force the federal government to clean up the toxic Ghost Fleet of Suisun Bay. Work to remove the fleet has been steadily progressing since then, with 14 of the ships having been removed to date. Forty-three vessels currently remain in the Bay. Under our settlement agreement, the Maritime Administration must permanently remove all of the ships by 2017, while twenty of the most deteriorated ships are to be removed by September 2012.
Baykeeper, along with our partner Arc Ecology, has advocated for local breakdown of the ships so that the recycling process is held to California's environmental standards – rather than having the ships towed through the Pacific Ocean to places with less stringent pollution controls. This month, the former naval shipyard on Mare Island reopened for the first time in fifteen years to recycle some of the ships. The first ship to be recycled at the facility, the 50-year-old cargo ship SS Solon Turman, arrived in early February, with a second ship scheduled to arrive in March.
The Ghost Fleet is a collection of ships that were anchored in Suisun Bay after World War II and the Korean War. Since then, the fleet has polluted the surrounding sediment with an estimated 20 tons of heavy metals, and projections estimate that 50 more tons would be released if the ships were to remain in the Bay. Suisun Bay provides habitat for several species of endangered fish, including Chinook salmon and Delta smelt, and is an important feeding stop along the Pacific Flyway for migrating waterfowl. Cleaning up the Ghost Fleet will help restore the health of this important Bay habitat.
Baykeeper will continue to monitor and report on the cleanup process as more ships from the Ghost Fleet are removed from the Bay.
Photo: Flickr/Ingrid Taylar