Health department issues oil leak advisory in wake of Golden Ray leak

·2 min read

Jul. 2—In the wake of a fuel leak that followed Thursday's separation of a humongous chunk of the shipwrecked Golden Ray in the St. Simons Sound, the Glynn County Health Department issued an advisory Friday for beachgoers on Jekyll and St. Simons islands.

The advisory cautions folks that oil globules and fuel sheens are possible in waters and on shorelines near the shipwreck, which is half-submerged in the sound between the two resort islands. Should a beachgoer get tar balls on their skin, the health department release advises them to use "soap and clean water" to remove it. The health department says "harsh detergents, solvents, or other chemicals to wash oil from skin or clothing" could be harmful. Beachgoers should get out of the water if they "see a sheen of oil on the surface ... ," the release states.

Those who encounter oil sheens or tar balls are asked to call the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at 800-424-8802. Those encountering possible debris washed up shorelines from the shipwreck should call the debris hotline at 912-944-5620.

Salvage operation officials have water and shoreline patrol teams out in force to combat the leak, said U.S. Coast Guardsman Michael Himes, spokesman for Unified Command. The teams are using absorbent boom and boats outfitted with oil skimmers to extract fuel sheens speckled with oil globules from the waters. Crews also are employing current busters, large V-shaped craft pulled by boats at either end to envelope and collect fuel sheens and globules, Himes said.

Foot patrols are policing shorelines for debris and tar balls from the shipwreck, he said.

The VB 10,000 crane vessel completed the eight-week mission to separate Section 3 from the shipwreck Thursday morning, pulling the cutting chain through the final remnants of steel at around daybreak, Himes said. The VB 10,000 then hoisted the 3,640-metric-ton section from the water and moved it away from the dwindling remains of the shipwreck. That is when oil began leaking from the shipwreck, Himes said.

The VB 10,000 is holding the 73-foot-long Section 3 aloft inside the 1-mile perimeter environmental protection barrier that surrounds the shipwreck with oil retention boom on the surface and sturdy mesh netting below. Salvage crews are using this time to remove accumulated sediments, vehicles and mobile interior deck sections, Himes said. This "weight shedding" operation is taking place in advance of placing the section on a barge for removal; it is likely to take several days.

The 656-foot-long Golden Ray overturned on its port side Sept. 8, 2019, while heading out to sea with a cargo of 4,200 vehicles. Section 3 was the fifth section to be cut away from the shipwreck since cutting began in November. Its departure will leave about 227 feet of the shipwreck remaining in the sound.

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