Honolulu, Hawaii — Basel Action Network claims dangerous polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are going down with each sunken ship. Under a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Navy can leave as much as 100 pounds of PCBs on each ship before it’s used for training known as SINKEX. „Materials don’t have to be removed if you have to scrap, blast, use chemical stripping (or) remove heavy equipment,“ complains Colby Self, director of Basel’s ship recycling campaign. „Virtually, you don’t have to remove anything. So, the Navy gets to determine what they remove.“
On Thursday evening, the Navy sank the decommissioned USS Ogden 60 miles northwest of Kauai as part of a major naval exercise involving 22 countries, more than 40 ships and submarines and 25,000 personnel. Two more ships are scheduled to be sunk next week, but the Navy won’t release exact dates or locations.
Allegedly „in strict compliance“
In a statement to KITV4, U.S. Navy Third Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Lenaya Rotklein stressed that each SINKEX vessel undergoes a rigorous cleaning that includes removal of all liquid PCBs from transformers and capacitors to the greatest extent practical. „Each SINKEX is conducted in strict compliance with applicable U.S. environmental laws, regulations and permit requirements to minimize potential harm to the environment,“ she said.
Other restrictions require the Navy to carry out ship sinkings at least 50 nautical miles from any coastline at depths of at least 6,000 feet. The Ogden was sunk at a depth of 15,000 feet.
Counter to President Obama’s mandates
According to Basel Action Network, the Navy’s sinking exercises also run counter to President Obama’s ocean protection mandates, including an executive order that established a national policy to ensure the protection and health of oceans. „I think that the White House really does need to evaluate to ensure that their policies are consistent, and right now they are not,“ argued Colby Self.
According to the environmental group, at least 118 ships have been sunk by the Navy since 2000. In addition to environmental concerns, the organization says the decommissioned ships could have been recycled and provided jobs to out-of-work Americans. Basel Action Network has an online petition at Change.org that demands the Navy follow all environmental laws like every other U.S. citizen.
Source: Jim Puckett / Basel Action Network