A 150-ton crane barge was able to pull a sunken 73-foot vessel up to the surface Saturday, salvaging the ship. The vessel was removed successfully from the water at approximately 9:30 p.m. and placed on a barge that will transport it from the area off Lowman Beach park where it sank to Tacoma for repairs.
There is still an oil sheen on the water around where the vessel sank. Coast Guard officials said the remaining oil cannot be discovered and will dissolve naturally.
Investigators from the Coast Guard and Washington Department of Ecology will examine the vessel and try to discover what caused it to sink before repairs get under way.
Late Friday night, Coast Guard and Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) worked to clean oil from the shoreline at Lowman Beach park.
The oil leaked from a transport boat that sank off of West Seattle Friday morning. The vessel was a 73-foot LCM-8, a type of landing craft that was used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. It was being used to ferry boulders from a barge back to shore at Alki Beach where workers were constructing a breaker wall. In a matter of minutes, the 75-foot-long, boat was 25 feet under water. There was no one on board at the time of the incident.
“Before the vessel sank, the vents were plugged, but we found that some of the diesel has been bubbling up, leaking,” said Captain Scott Ferguson with the Coast Guard. Ferguson estimated that 100 gallons leaked out.
The vessel's owner reported that there was approximately 300 gallons of diesel and 50 gallon of motor oil on board. Earlier in the day, the oil had created a sheen on the water, Katie Skipper with the DOE said. The sheen on the water was approximately 600 feet by 300 feet.
Generally, an oil sheen of that size deteriorates as it is exposed to elements and natural wave action. Nonetheless, petroleum spills of any size are an environmental danger.
When the owner of the vessel showed up to the barge Friday morning, he reported the LCM-8, which was tied up to the barge, was taking on water.
Kurt Hart with the DOE said the sinking vessel was discovered at about 7:30 a.m. and the DOE was notified almost an hour later. According to Hart, every minute is critical when it comes to containing an oil spill.
Agents with the DOE said the agency will be investigating why it took so long for them to be contacted.
One of the biggest concerns is wildlife flying into the spill. Crews attempted to mop up as much oil as it could by using skimming vessels, and oil containment boom, and the absorbent pads along the shore.
Pursuant to state and federal law, when a boat sinks and there is a treat of an oil spill, the Department of Ecology must be notified immediately.
At this time, it is unclear if the DOE will take action. If it does, the owners of the vessel could be forced to pay for the clean-up costs and could face fines.