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Ships to Reefs (REEFEX)

   The decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA 34) sinks in the Gulf of Mexico 24 miles off the coast of Pensacola, Fla., May 17, 2006. The 32,000-ton, 888-foot ship, which took 37 minutes to sink, is the largest ship ever intentionally sunk as an artificial reef. (U.S. Navy photograph [released])

The ex-VERMILLION sinking off the coast of South Carolina. (SCNDR photograph) (larger view)
 
   
   Tomtates (Haemulon aurolineatum) photographed on the ex-VERMILLION reef. (SCNDR photograph) (larger view)

Obsolete U.S. Navy vessels would make excellent artificial reefs in U.S. coastal waters if preliminary data suggesting that they pose no threat to human health or the environment from PCB contamination can be confirmed. The U.S. EPA has the authority to approve risk-based disposal of PCBs (63 FR 35384, June 29, 1998), if a finding of no unreasonable risk of injury to human health and the environment can be made.

In July of 1999, the REEFEX Technical Working Group was formed to assess the scientific and technical issues of using former Navy warships to construct artificial reefs. The REEFEX Technical Working Group consisted of representatives from the U.S. EPA, U.S. Navy, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife, Florida Department of Health, and Escambia County, FL.

SSC Pacific, in cooperation with the Navy Environmental Health Center (NEHC), supported the REEFEX Technical Working Group by assessing the ecological and human health risks of reusing ex-warships to create artificial reefs. The risk assessment studies evaluated whether PCBs in Solid Materials onboard ex-Navy Vessels would leach from sunken vessels and cause harm to the artificial reef community or impact human health from consumption of seafood obtained from the reef.

http://www.dnr.sc.gov/news/Yr2007/aug20/aug20_reef_pic.html

 

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