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mothball fleet in Ca:  Bush admin's abrupt decision - water      concerns

NOTE cancer cluster in SF Bay Area; after 1947 sandblasting in  
Hunters Point San Francisco of FIVE (5) Radioactive warships from  
bikini Islands nuclear detonation.

Environmentalists, water regulators concerned by fleet decision

07/06/07 15:25:49

Water-quality officials expressed concern, environmentalists dismay on
Friday following the Bush administration's abrupt decision to move
full-steam ahead with the breaking up of old warships rotting in
California's "mothball fleet."

The federal Maritime Administration announced Thursday that it would  
month lift its moratorium on disposing of the ships. More than 50 are
rusting in limbo northeast of San Francisco, a collection of troop
transports, tankers and other vessels.

Such a step would set in motion the towing of some vessels from Suisun
Bay, a shallow estuary, to the former Naval Air Station Alameda,  
where the
warships would be scrubbed of sea life before being hauled to a
ship-breaking facility in Texas.

That scrubbing causes toxic paint to flake off into the water, and  
that is
what worries environmentalists and state water-quality regulators.

"It looks like they're using San Francisco Bay waters as a dumping
ground," said Michael Wall, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources
Defense Council who has followed the issue.

"The Maritime Administration seems to be the one agency that is most
committed to ignoring the nation's environmental regulations," said Saul
Bloom, executive director of Arc Ecology, a San Francisco environmental
group working to make the ghost warships disappear.

Bloom said he was disappointed that the Maritime Administration intended
to scrub the warships at Alameda, a military base near Oakland that was
shuttered a decade ago, portions of which are currently Superfund  
sites. The ship-scrubbing could complicate ongoing cleanup efforts, he

Moreover, Bloom said he was dismayed that the Maritime Administration  
not committed to obtaining permits under the Clean Water Act for the

But Bruce Wolfe, executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional  
Quality Control Board, said his agency - charged with enforcing
clean-water standards - does not want to demand such permits from the
Maritime Administration. Insisting on permits would slow the removal of
the ships from Suisun Bay, Wolfe said in a telephone interview Friday.

"We would much rather come to an agreement with them on what are the  
management practices they'd use" for scrubbing the warships, Wolfe said.

Still, Wolfe said he had several concerns about the Maritime
Administration's announcement.

Just last week, Connaughton's staff had pledged to provide the state  
the results of tests the administration had conducted on a
contaminant-containment system used on ships in Virginia. The system  
six-foot-wide scrubbers to filter the paint-laden water, Wolfe said.

Moreover, the Maritime Administration had promised that hull cleaning in
the bay area would start with a pilot program. The project as  
described in
Connaugton's letter makes no provision for a "pause" to study the  
pollution generated by the first few ships, Wolfe said.

Wolfe said he also wants answers about the maintenance of dozens of  
that would remain indefinitely in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. Even  
the most optimistic projections, the Maritime Administration only has  
budget to move 15 old ships out of three facilities nationwide in the  
year, Wolfe said. That is the same number that Connaughton pledged to  
out of Suisun Bay within a year. That would still leave nearly 40

Recently the Maritime Administration reached agreements with Virginia  
Texas that paved the way for cleaning to resume there.

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board was  
preparing a
letter to the Maritime Administration to inquire about those concerns,
Wolfe said.

Under a congressional order, the Maritime Administration had a 2006
deadline to dismantle ships in reserve fleets classified as no longer
useful. That hasn't happened because of budget shortfalls, a shortage of
facilities that can dismantle the giant ships and environmental  

"We recognize they have a challenge and they have a mandate from  
and they need to comply with federal law," Wolfe said of the Maritime
Administration. "We want to work with them to ensure they can do that,
because it can't be the environment left out in the cold in this whole


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