Environmental concerns as fuel-covered plastic washes up on shore after Golden Ray fire

It’s been a week since the Golden Ray caught on fire for the fourth time in the St. Simons Sound.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – It’s been a week since the Golden Ray caught on fire for the fourth time in the St. Simons Sound.

Now, pieces of the ship and its contents are washing up on the shores of beaches.

The Altamaha Riverkeeper is concerned about the environmental impacts after they found pieces of plastic covered in fuel, most likely from the cars aboard the Golden Ray. The riverkeeper said the debris will keep washing up as long as the ship is in the water.

“Ever since [the fire] we’ve been finding tons of plastic on our beaches and in our water,” said Sue Inman, Altamaha Riverkeeper.

The debris has been anywhere from little pieces of plastic to a huge piece of plastic, she said.

Inman says most of the debris has washed up on local beach accesses near the St. Simons Sound.

“Your seats, your fabrics, there’s a lot of things that are in cars that you don’t really think about,” she said. “It’s getting into our estuaries. Animals could be eating it it could get on plants.”

Kenneth Maculey says he enjoys watching the pre-cutting operations on the Golden Ray from the St. Simons Pier with his dogs. But he knows that the capsized ship poses some threats.

“It’s a big source of pollution and all the oil and other fluids that can come out of it, but I think they’re handling it responsibly,” Maculey said.

The ship has been in the sound for almost two years.

Inman says the fire has delayed the cutting process and with four fires happening while it’s been capsized the ship is becoming more and more at risk of falling apart.

Inman says the Golden Ray still has to be evaluated to see the damage it sustained from the fire.

She also says if you see any debris don’t touch it, contact the Altamaha Riverkeeper so they can properly remove it from the beach.

About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.