U.S.S. Mississinewa, AO-59 Press Release:
USS Mississinewa AO-59, leaking oil contained..only partial solution to the problem.
Disaster Coordination and Management
Office of the Governor, State of Yap
Federated States of Micronesia

August 29, 2001

The Navy contracted team has successfully plugged the leaking pipe from one of the tanks in the sunken US Navy oilier in Ulithi Atoll that was responsible for the oil leak and spill in the lagoon for nearly a month since it was first reported on August 6, 2001.

Mt. Lloyd Saner, the head of the team from GPC Joint Venture, out of Williamsburg Virginia and a sub-contracted group of divers and engineers from the Pacific Foundation out of Guam and Honolulu, briefed the State Disaster Coordinating Team and Governor Figir on what they have undertaken so far and what they intended to go out to Ulithi to further undertake. He restated what his group’s were here to do, which was to survey the ship and plug and patch whatever hole or crack that is responsible for the leak and put that to a stop.

Mr. Saner said that they found the source of the leak on their first day of diving and found that the source of the leak was from a pipe from the 2nd wing tank and that they have plugged and secured that pipe. He said that they discovered in the course of plugging the pipe that about 5,000 gallons of oil have already leaked out beyond the leaking pipe and is leaking out through a crack on the side of the boat, which he said they have also successfully patched and said that they will go out to the site to make the patch more permanent by putting a steel plate over it. Mr. Saner said that they again checked after the crack was sealed and that the oil leak has stopped. He said that they will also try to estimate amount of oil in the oil tanks on the sunken vessel.

He said that when they dove their last dive yesterday, they found that the amount of oil trapped between the tank and the hull of the ship has reduced to about 2,500 gallons, which to them shows that the leak from the tank has stopped. The question is, what to do with this 2,500 gallons? Recover it and then do what with it in view of the State position not to dispose any of the oil anywhere within the State of Yap. The only option open right now to recover this amount of oil is by pumping it into 40 to 60 drums on the Micro Spirit. The Governor has agreed that these drums be taken to Yap under one condition that an instrument or agreement is signed between appropriate authorities that specifies unmistakable commitment for it to be transported and remove from Yap State soil within a given and acceptable timeframe. Mr. Saner agreed to take the matter up with his superiors.

Governor Figir, after thanking Mr. Saner for the job that his team has done in bringing the oil leak from the ship to a stop and thus brought a stop to the immediate problem of oil leaking into the lagoon but the bigger problem remains.

Governor Figir’s said, "that the remaining major problem is the amount oil (1,000,000 or more gallons) remaining in the ship, which gives us only one certainty—that it will burst open one day from typhoons and cause a much bigger catastrophe. So the removal of all the oil from that ship for proper disposal elsewhere is the only solution and when that is done then the threat can then be said to be eliminated."

Mr. Saner said that his group’s main task is to stop the oil leak and they have done that. The removal of the 2,500 gallons oil is a new development, which he said they are ready to do only if they have a place to take it to. They are task also to survey as well the impact of the damage on the population from the oil spill but their main task is to stop the leak.

The briefing ends with understanding that the Micro Spirit field trip vessel can be made available for them to ship out the equipment and materials they need to ensure that the patches are made more permanent and to take the necessary number of drums into which the oil can be pumped and transported to Yap to wait final removal from Yap to another destination disposal as it cannot be disposed of on Yap, under the condition that an instrument/agreement is worked out and sign specifying who is responsible to remove and transport the oil and the timeframe during which that should be undertaken.

Mr. Saner informed the Governor that a Navy personnel will arrive Yap today and that the Governor and the people in-charge of coordinating the oil spill meet with this person.