Saturday, January 7, 2017

Burial at sea delayed for famed 'Perfect Storm' ship

The Tamaroa

Scott Fallon reports for
The Record:

The Coast Guard cutter that helped rescue seven people during “The Perfect Storm” has still not been cleared by federal environment officials to be sunk off the New Jersey coast.

Delaware officials had wanted to add the Tamaroa to an artificial reef it shares with New Jersey before the end of 2016, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is still waiting for lab results to see if the storied ship is free from cancer-causing PCBs, an agency spokesman said.

The reef attracts large game fish and is a boon to diving and the Garden State’s $1.7 billion recreational fishing industry.
The sinking has been highly anticipated among many current and retired service members ever since news of the Tamaroa’s fate broke in October. The ship became famous in 1991 when its crew conducted two rescue missions during a storm that produced 40-foot waves and 70 mph wind gusts off the New England coast. Their heroics were documented years later in the book and film “The Perfect Storm,” starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.

The 73-year-old ship, which served in World War II as the USS Zuni, had been undergoing an extensive cleanup at a shipyard in Norfolk, Va., in preparation for the sinking. That involves removing all hazardous material, including PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. 

Once the most widely used chemicals in electrical equipment, PCBs were banned in 1979 when they were found to cause cancer and other serious ailments. 

David Sternberg, an EPA spokesman, said the agency is waiting for lab reports from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to see if there is still contamination. The EPA would then inspect the ship onsite.

“Once given the OK from EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard, Delaware and New Jersey will be able to proceed with the sinking,” Sternberg said.

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