Crews prepare to raise sunken fishing vessel leaking oil into Salish Sea

Crews prepare to raise sunken fishing vessel leaking oil into Salish Sea

The U.S. Coast Guard says it is making progress dealing with an oil spill in the Salish Sea near Canadian waters and it hopes to begin raising the sunken fishing vessel later this week. 

A barge and crane are being shipped from Seattle to San Juan Island to help with the removal of the Aleutian Isle, which had nearly 9,840 litres of oil and diesel on board when it sank west of San Juan Island in Washington state on Aug. 13.

The spill is in U.S. waters, but marine responders say there is the potential for the oil to move into Canadian waters near Vancouver Island. Both the Canadian and U.S. coast guards have responded.

In a statement, the U.S. Coast Guard said the oil sheen on the water “remains minimal” and it has now laid more than 1,300 metres of absorbent boom to protect environmentally sensitive areas. 

Peter Ross, a senior scientist for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said the spill happened in the middle of a “critical habitat” for southern resident killer whales, of which there are only 74 remaining. 

Response vessels work at the site where a commercial fishing vessel carrying 9,840 litres of oil and diesel sank on Aug. 13. (The Washington State Department of Ecology/Flickr)

The U.S. Coast Guard said Monday that cross-border training with Canada’s Marine Mammal Unit is scheduled for Thursday. The team will deter marine wildlife from entering the spill area should the need arise. 

The Washington Department of Ecology has created an incident-specific webpage.

Due to the sunken ship’s depth, the U.S. Coast Guard says specialized gas mixtures are being produced for the divers who will be involved in efforts to raise the vessel.

“Once mixed, the gas must settle and be tested for proportionality and then shipped to the San Juan Island team” according to a news release. 

The special gas mixtures, crane and barge are estimated to arrive later in the week, at which time crews will begin removing the vessel. 

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