REEFING OF USS ORISKANY--IS IT SAFE?-Andrew Stelzer

05/17/06

The U-S-S Oriskany (oh-RISK'-any) is on its way to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Navy divers have detonated explosives aboard it to send the retired aircraft carrier on a 212-foot plunge. They're trying to create the world's largest intentionally created reef. The rusting 888-foot ship was expected to take about five hours to sink after the detonations, which was around 9:30 Eastern time this morning. The Oriskany, nearly three football fields in length, is the first ship set for reefing under the Navy's pilot program to dispose of old warships. The sinking will cost 20 (m) million dollars. A 2004 Florida State University study estimates Escambia County will see 92 (m) million dollars a year in economic benefits from an artificial reef.

It took several years to get federal approval to sink the ship; the reefing of the ORISKANY is the start of a completely new program for the Navy; in 2004 congress granted the authority to have decommissioned ships stricken from the Naval Vessel Register to be transferred to States for use as artificial reefs. As soon as the ship hits bottom, it becomes the property of the state of Florida.

Despite spending millions of dollars cleaning out the ship, at least 700 pounds of toxic Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCB’s remain on board the ship. The Environmental Protection agency signed off on the plan, after they decided that the disposal action would not pose an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. The EPA ruling, however, does not apply to future sinkings, just the Oriskany.

Some environmental advocates are concerned about the potential contamination of the water, which could pose a danger to sea life, and the thousands of recreational divers who are expected to descend of the ship in the coming months.

Kurt Davies is the research director for Greenpeace in Washington DC. WMNF spoke to him earlier this week about his concerns regarding turning the Oriskany into an artificial reef. We began by asking him to describe just how large the ship is.

GREENPEACE ON ORISKANY

That was Kurt Davies, the research director for Greenpeace in Washington DC.

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