GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. – Crews are preparing to slice the next section of the capsized Golden Ray. This will be the third cut of seven. Riverkeepers expect the third cut to produce an oil release of unprecedented local magnitude.
News4Jax walked the Jekyll Island shoreline near the pier with the Altamaha Riverkeeper to see what debris washed up after the latest cut several weeks ago.
The Riverkeeper says about 44,000 gallons of petroleum product are aboard the Golden Ray. Coastkeeper Sue Inman is concerned with what could potentially leak out in the St. Simons Sound during the next cut being it’s so close to the engine room.
Around Driftwood Beach, Inman found several pieces of debris, including bumper parts, melted plastic and pieces of fiberglass. In the past, she’s also found globs of oil.
“We walk the beaches to get an idea of what actually is washing up on the beaches or what could potentially be in our waters and floating up in our estuaries,” Inman said.
Inman said a dead dolphin washed ashore St. Simons Island on Wednesday morning. A necropsy is being performed to find out the cause of death. Inman said the older female dolphin seemed to be in good condition.
From the sky, it’s clear the ship is leaking petroleum after the cut of the stern earlier this month. Back in December, divers removed more than 320,000 gallons of oil mixed with water off the ship, but tens of thousands of gallons still remain.
@ 5 — The Golden Ray is clearly leaking petroleum product after 2nd cut and removal of the stern earlier this month. Stern is now sitting on a barge at the Mary Ross waterfront Park in Brunswick and will soon head to Louisiana to be recycled. (pic: Altamaha Riverkeepers) @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/F9DXpigMnY— Brittany Muller (@BrittMullerNews) January 14, 2021
“What we observed during this operation is exactly why we have the protection barrier and a dynamic fleet of oil response vessels. The pollution response team has been refining their operations for months and that paid off with their swift response to the product released from the wreck during the lift.” said U.S. Coast Guard Commander Efren Lopez, the federal on-scene coordinator.
“It really weighs on you. You know it’s going to go into the community and affect the environment,” said Inman. “You see the crews trying to clean it up but it’s still such a big impact and it’s hard wrenching and it’s happening outside of the environmental protection barrier.”
Inman said she works with mitigation teams who monitor the beaches. Our crews saw them out Thursday afternoon.
“Shoreline teams are out every day to keep our beaches and marshes clear of debris and other impacts,” said John Maddox, with the Georgia DNR Coastal Resources Division. “A rigorous environmental monitoring program including water quality monitoring and wildlife surveys is in place to ensure the continued health of St. Simon’s Sound.”
The third cut is expected to begin next week. This cut will rip through the engine room.
“We expect to see an increase of oil products on the water, in the water and then again the increase of debris car parts to be washed up mainly on Jekyll (Island),” said Inman.
Once Inman finds debris or oil globs, she reports it to the hotline.
It’s not only affecting the environment and wildlife, but also local industries.
“[The shrimping boats] are catching debris from the ship; a few of them have caught bumpers and some side panels.”
This stern is sitting on a barge at Mary Ross Waterfront Park. It’s expected to soon head to Gibson, Louisiana to be recycled. Since both ends of the ship have been removed, Inman said the big question is will the next six pieces will be removed whole? Or will they fall to pieces?
- To report oiled wildlife: 800-261-0980
- To report pollution: 800-424-8802
- To report debris: 912-944-5620