Crews continue to cleanup oil from SS Davy Crockett

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The Davy Crockett, a converted 431-foot flat deck barge, released an estimated 70-gallons of oil during a commercial salvage on Jan. 27. On Feb. 3, ballasting operations began after a week of planning by the Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The stern was lowered a total of 17-feet in order to safely inspect the remaining compartments.

Ballasting operations were completed Thursday night on the SS Davy Crockett, the derelict ship moored on the north shore of the Columbia River near Camas.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, during the operation crews lowered the stern 17-feet to allow four remotely operated pumps to flood cargo hold compartments with approximately 600,000 gallons of water. The goal is to determine the location of pollutants that remain on the vessel.

“Long-term salvage plans or time line estimates would be speculative until more is known about pollutants contained within the compartments of the Davy Crockett,” said Coast Guard Capt. Daniel LeBlanc, federal on-scene coordinator. “Parallel to the recovery and salvage operation, an investigation is being conducted into the events leading up to the spill of oil.”

The Davy Crockett suffered a significant structural failure in late January during a salvage operation being conducted by the owner, who was then issued an administrative order on Jan. 21 by the Coast Guard to take cleanup action or face penalties.

Soon after, Ballard Diving & Salvage, a Seattle based company, was hired by the vessel’s owner to complete the cleanup. Trained salvage crews worked on the ship to locate and evaluate sources of oil.

But on Jan. 27, the Washington Department of Ecology and the Coast Guard received reports of a light sheen that stretched to the Port of Vancouver and traced it back to the derelict Davy Crockett. According to the Coast Guard, an estimated 70 gallons of oil leaked from the vessel that day.

Initially, 18,000 feet of absorbent boom and 2,800 feet of hard boom were deployed.

“Pollution response at this point consists of containment and removal from the water’s surface using absorbent materials and skimmers,” said Mike Greenburg, on-scene coordinator in a statement on Jan. 30. “Stability of the vessel is a vital concern and we are working to establish it.”

As of Friday, Feb. 4, the Coast Guard reports that 3,500 gallons of oily water have been collected from within the boom, and within the compartments of the Davy Crockett and the surrounding area. In addition, 49,600 pounds of debris have been removed, including batteries, rail ties, mercury laden lamps and tires.

Total expenditures of all involved agencies and contractors so far is $1.6 million.

The SS Davy Crockett Liberty ship was constructed in 1942 in Houston, Texas, by the Houston Shipbuilding Corporation. It was later converted to a flat deck barge by a private owner.

According to the Coast Guard, the Davy Crocket has been derelict along the northern banks of the Columbia River for years and sank in the same spot in the last 1 1/2 years. The vessel is outside of the shipping channel and is not a hazard to navigation.