First step to salvaging Big Blue: remove oil - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

First step to salvaging Big Blue: remove oil

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - A unified command has been established with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency and the Guam Shipyard to manage the recovery of a partially sunken dry dock. Concerns are focused on the safety of responders and mitigate the pollution threat as tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater, oil and diesel was believed to have been aboard "Big Blue". 

Heavy surf and rough seas are to blame for the partial sinking of the Guam Shipyard's dry dock. Plans are now finalized to recover the floating dry dock, which began to sink around midnight last Sunday. USCG Captain Thomas Sparks explained that hatches left open on the dock took in water causing the dock to sink.

He told KUAM News, "What happens is the water gets in one compartment and that pushes it lower and makes it easier for water to get in another compartment if there is a compartment available to it and the process is called 'progressive flooding'. And now what we have we believe we have equilibrium the dry dock is down by its forward end about four or five inches above the water line."  

An estimated 13,000 gallons of diesel waste and 2,000 gallons of waste oil were on board. Sparks says the first step is to remove the oil from the dock, a process which is expected to take three days. Guam Shipyard president and CEO Mathews Pothen says no employees are under investigation. He adds the Shipyard has ensured they have all the assets necessary to transfer the diesel and waste oil to mitigate any potential pollution.

"Guam Shipyard is working diligently with the Coast Guard and the Guam EPA in the management of recovery process and to ensure all the waste oil is safely removed prior to the raising of the dry dock," said the executive.

While a comprehensive assessment of the damage is currently underway, clean up is expected to take about 15 days.  The shipyard meanwhile is also ensuring the hatches are left closed and the dock is raised to prevent an incident like this from ever happening again in the future.

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