Coast Guard working to control potential environmental impact of burning ship

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Coast Guard crews at Blount Island were working throughout the day Friday to keep a burning cargo ship intact, attempting to minimize any threat there might be to the environment.

“We need to all monitor to make sure there are no long-term impacts of potential spills that escaped outside that boomed area,” said Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

Rinaman told News4Jax the river patrol group is on site monitoring the for any pollution. On Friday, fire boats hosed down the exterior of the vessel in an attempt to maintain the integrity of the hull.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said it’s letting the ship fire burn itself out, saying it’s too dangerous to put firefighters back inside.

RELATED: Fire chief: Some firefighters will be out for ’long time’

“One of the things is to make sure the integrity of the ship is protected. It’s easier to keep it contained if it’s above water, and so every step that they make to protect that cargo ship helps to protect the river,” Rinaman said.

The Coast Guard has placed protective booms around the ship to catch any contaminants that might be leaking not only from the ship, but also the automobiles that were being carried by the vessel. The goal: keep the vessel cool, intact and afloat.

News4Jax asked Rinaman if and how much fuel or oil has leaked into the river. She responded, “We have not heard those reports yet. There was no indication at this point.”

“As of now we still do not have any visible sheening, and we have about 3,500 feet of boom standing by," said Captain Mark Vlaun with the Coast Guard. "As soon as the vessel is cold enough to safely boom we’ll actually wrap it around completely. Right now, most of that boom is already in the water so we can rapidly move it if we do start to see pollution.”

Rinaman said the St. Johns River estuary is important for our commercial and recreational industries, and that it’s filled with shrimp and blue crab and home to manatees and dolphin.

“It’s really important to contain the pollution and make sure we understand the extent and do all that we can as a community,” she said.

You can report sheen sightings to the St. Johns Riverkeeper. The information is then sent to the Department of Environmental Protection.

About the Authors: