Environmentalists concerned Golden Ray debris could float upriver

Responders begin cutting Section One of the Golden Ray wreckage for removal.
Responders begin cutting Section One of the Golden Ray wreckage for removal.(Unified Command)
Updated: Nov. 18, 2020 at 5:59 PM EST
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GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Crews continue to cut away at the 70,000 ton vessel overturned off the coast of Glynn county. With each cut, more debris and pollutants could possibly be released into the water.

An environmental protection barrier is set up around the site. The design uses tidal currents to trap any contaminants that may escape.

Keep in mind, the Golden Ray was transporting cars when it capsized, and those cars are still inside.

Some environmentalists worry possible pollutants may float upriver.

The Golden Ray has caused environmental concerns ever since it ran aground and capsized last year. But one watchdog group says their concerns stretch beyond the coast back inland and upriver.

The ship was carrying thousands of cars when it turned on its side and began leaking fuel and more. State and federal agencies work to cut it apart and move it away.

Meanwhile, Fletcher Sams, who heads the Altamaha Riverkeeper group, says leaks and floating debris have damaged the inlet and back river. He says they’ve seen oils and other chemicals come upriver as much as ten miles.

“We have some of the biggest tide cycles in the world. Once this stuff moves offshore, it can come back in. We don’t know where,” Sams said.

He says the booms intended to catch the pollutants floating on the water surface aren’t catching the heavier materials floating just below.

“Smaller debris and the other liquid contaminants are likely not to be captured by this equipment,” Sams said.

The Riverkeeper worries what happens when the salvage crews cut the ship apart. They worry even more debris and chemicals will float out and further pollute the water. They’re urging the agencies to order a damage assessment, so they know the amount of damage.

“Unless we get that assessment, we won’t be able to hold Hyundai accountable for the damage that’s already present and the damage that’s expected during the removal,” Sams said.

The team in charge of the removal. say they are scanning the water and shoreline daily. If you need to report pollution or debris from the Golden Ray, call these numbers: 800-424-8802 for pollution and 912-944-5620 for debris.

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