Environment, News

As Oil Clean Up Continues On Ga. Coast, More Could Leak From Wrecked Ship

Oil from the overturned cargo ship Golden Ray.
Oil from the overturned cargo ship Golden Ray.
Credit Fletcher Sams / Altamaha Riverkeeper
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More oil could escape from the ship that’s been capsized off the Georgia coast for close to two years.

Oil from the Golden Ray spilled from the wreck over the weekend. It’s on the beaches and marshes of St. Simons Island, and some has been seen on Jekyll Island, too.

The oil leaked from a section of the ship that workers were starting to lift out of the water on Saturday.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Himes, a spokesman for the removal management team, said crews tried again to lift that section on Monday, and oil leaked from it again. They lowered the section back into the water and collected the oil that they could, though more did escape. Himes said Monday’s discharge was smaller than the amount that leaked over the weekend.

Removal crews have a plan to lift the section again that will hopefully limit how much more oil gets out, Himes said.

“What we have seen in the last two days would characterize what we would call a worst-case scenario,” he said.

He said the oil appears to have collected in a ballast tank in the wrecked ship.

Himes says it could take several days to finish the cleanup. As many as 30 boats are collecting oil in the water, and 70 people are working on the shoreline.

Fletcher Sams with the environmental group Altamaha Riverkeeper said he’s worried that as time goes on, the tide is burying oil in the sand.

“The longer it takes to clean up, the harder it gets to clean up,” he said.

Beaches weren’t closed on Monday. Sams said he saw beachgoers walking through oil to and from the water.

“We’re seeing people come in contact with oil, up and down the beach,” Sams said.

Himes said there were signs posted to let people know about the oil. And Sams said he was handing out sanitizing wipes for people to use.

The Golden Ray capsized nearly two years ago as it was leaving the Port of Brunswick, carrying thousands of cars. The removal process started late last year.

Federal safety officials have not yet released their final report on the cause of the wreck.