Oil Leak On Ga. Coast Slowed As Crews Find Source On Wrecked Cargo Ship

A shoreline clean-up team applies sphagnum moss to oil marsh grass near Wylie Street public beach access on Monday. Sphagnum moss is a natural adsorbent coating that promotes the natural breakdown process of oil while reducing the likelihood of any oil transferring to wildlife.

St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

Crews removing the overturned cargo ship on the Georgia coast have found the likely source of the oil that’s spilled from it over the past week. Oil clean-up continues, but officials say there is less oil coming from the wreck now.

Over the past week, oil from the wreck of the Golden Ray car carrier washed up on beaches and marshes on St. Simons Island, and 20 juvenile royal terns from Bird Island were sent to a facility in South Carolina to get oil washed off of them.

The oil escaped from the car carrier a few times over several days as crews were working to remove a giant section of the ship. With that section lifted in the air, they were able to find and plug a fuel line that they believe was the source of the oil, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Himes, a spokesman for the multi-agency wreck response team.

He said it had been too dangerous to send divers under water to inspect the part of the ship that was leaking.

“As much as we would have liked to have been able to survey parts of the section, the potential for falling debris and the low visibility of the worksite itself” made it unsafe, he said.

Multiple response vessels standby as a rainbow sheen approaches the Current Buster at the EPB apex on Wednesday. Response teams recover oil from the Current Buster while it is deployed using vessels equipped with pumps and containment tanks. (St. Simons Sound Incident response photo)

Teams have continued working to remove oil from the beach and marsh grasses of St. Simons. A laughing gull that had been oiled was set to be released on Sunday.

Himes said even though the oil discharge has been slowed, the risk for more oil coming from the ship will continue until the whole wreck is removed.

“We’re always watching, we’re always monitoring, but we’re certainly not in the middle of an active discharge,” he said.

The Golden Ray capsized close to two years ago, as it was leaving the Port of Brunswick carrying thousands of cars. The ship and the cars are now more than half removed.

Federal officials haven’t yet released a final report on the cause of the wreck.