Oil shards began to appear in the waters of the St Simons Strait this week, an unfortunate byproduct of progress as an anchor chain weaved its way deeper inside the wrecked Golden Ray, Unified Command officials said.
Shipwreck debris has also started to wash up on nearby shores, from strange bits of plastic to what appears to be a car bumper.
The operation’s clean-up crews on land and on the water are dealing with the two pollution cases, but officials are urging the public to report any debris or suspected oil from the sinking, said coast guard Michael Himes, spokesperson. word of the unified command.
The number to call to report the debris is 912-944-5620. Anyone who detects a suspected oil sheen is asked to call 800-424-8802.
“There have been some slight reflections of residual oil this week, and that is in line with our expectations,” Himes said. “That’s why we have several levels of defense. We continued to collect debris from the shore this week. And we encourage people to report it if they see something they think is wreck debris. “
The multiple levels of defense include land, water and air. Crews of boats and helicopters spotted “light oil bursts” this week, officials said. The cleaning crews removed “a small amount of oil”.
No oil has been reported from local coasts, he said.
“We have had no sightings of oil on the shores or in the swamp as of Friday,” Himes said.
Himes described most of the debris recovered from local beaches this week as “little pieces of black plastic.” However, large parts such as a plastic license plate holder and a car bumper part were also recovered.
The half-submerged Golden Ray has some 4,200 vehicles inside – its cargo when the 656-foot-long car transporter capsized as it headed out to sea on September 8, 2019.
Trained cleanup crews scoured beaches and shores looking for and clearing debris, Himes said. The public also reported debris, he said.
“We want to make sure the public understands what we’re looking for,” Himes said. “But we don’t want people to think they will overwhelm us or disturb us. You know your beaches. If you see anything that looks like wreckage debris, report it. “
The wreck is surrounded by a 1 mile environmental barrier. The intricate structure includes a mesh net underneath that is strong enough to catch a Kia rolling underwater and a dam lining its surface to catch oil. Many boats with trained cleaning crews on board patrol the waters, some specializing in debris recovery and others in oil recovery.
Two elegant trawlers imported from the Gulf of Mexico also ply the waters, their powerful nets capable of picking up large, heavy pieces of debris.
Thousands of boom feet have been placed around environmentally sensitive areas or are ready to be deployed on the water if necessary.
Helicopters patrol above, searching for oil or debris and choreographing anyone below.
Infrared sensors, hydrographic survey equipment and other high-tech gadgets monitor everything from oil to the stability of the wreck on the sand bed to sound, Himes said.
“We have multiple levels of oversight and documentation,” he said. “It’s quite comprehensive.”
Unified Command officials estimated the Golden Ray had about 380,000 gallons in its fuel tanks when it capsized. Two large oil releases occurred shortly after, when oil escaped through vents along the sides of the hull. Over a period of several months at the end of last year, crews pumped about 320,000 gallons of oil from the Golden Ray’s tanks.
Each vehicle on board contains several gallons of gasoline, as well as oil and other automotive fluids.
The Unified Command includes the United States Coast Guard, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Gallagher Marine Systems. Its role is to ensure that the Golden Ray rescue adheres to environmental protection standards set by the Federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
Texas-based T&T Salvage is the primary contractor hired by the ship’s owner and insurer, who are responsible for paying for it all.