The Basel Action Network, a global toxic trade watchdog organization, claimed victory today as the U.S. Navy confirmed it had changed its decision to scuttle the aircraft carrier USS FORRESTAL, choosing instead to have the ship recycled here in the United States. This change followed the December 2010 release of BAN’s report “Jobs and Dollars Overboard: The Economic Case Against Dumping U.S. Naval Vessels at Sea.” BAN estimates that the recycling of the FORRESTAL will save millions of taxpayer dollars, create approximately 500 green jobs in the domestic recycling industry, and create about 1,900 jobs in the overall economy for one year. In addition to the FORRESTAL, the Navy now says it will recycle three other retired carriers: the SARATOGA, INDEPENDENCE, and CONSTELLATION. In past years, these vessels would all have been dumped at sea as artificial reefs or as part of the Navy’s costly sinking exercise program (SINKEX). For example, the aircraft carriers AMERICA and ORISKANY were both scuttled, costing taxpayers over $20 million each.
“The Obama Administration’s new plan to recycle these four aircraft carriers appears to be a signal that the Administration may be correcting long-standing misguided policies that not only squander resources, but American jobs as well,” said Colby Self, BAN’s Green Ship Recycling Campaign Director.
BAN’s calls to the Navy to end its plans to sink the USS FORRESTAL began in 2008, following the Navy’s report to Congress in which it clarified its intent to sink the ship as an artificial reef. By July 2009, the Navy had already spent $6.4 million removing asbestos from the vessel in preparation for ship scuttling. BAN warned that costs would quickly escalate when treatment of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) began, pointing to the disaster caused by efforts with another ship, the ORISKANY, where the Navy spent a reported $23.6 million to sink it. Yet by its own admission, the Navy had not removed all the hazardous PCBs on the ship, probable human carcinogens that are passed through the marine food chain to humans who consume contaminated fish.
On Dec. 13, 2010, just days before military leaders met at the Pentagon to decide the fate of this next round of obsolete vessels, BAN published its report making the economic case for choosing recycling over ocean dumping. This report was the first to call the Navy’s SINKEX program a significant waste of taxpayer dollars. It also included an open petition calling on the Navy to end the wasteful practice of dumping valuable metals at sea instead of recycling them, a choice that would save millions of dollars and also support domestic recycling jobs.
The recently revealed decision to recycle the FORRESTAL is welcomed by BAN, but so too is the Navy’s recently announced plans to stop dumping ships via SINKEX in 2011 while it reevaluates the benefits and impacts of the program. This comes on the heels of some 95 documented naval vessels having been dumped at sea in the last decade alone.
However, BAN remains concerned that the federal government has not stopped the plan to sink the ex-destroyer ARTHUR RADFORD this May. The ship is now under the command of a three-state artificial reefing pact comprised of Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. BAN notified officials of regulatory inconsistencies with artificial reefing efforts off Delaware’s coast in September 2010 and has raised serious economic and environmental concerns about artificial reefing’s waste of taxpayer dollars and the significant ocean pollution it causes. While the EPA has yet to approve the sinking, the Navy has already spent $200,000 in preparation.
“BAN calls on the US EPA, Navy and the Atlantic States to halt the plans to sink the RADFORD at once. 2011 can be the year that marks the point in history when we steer away from the arcane policy of scuttling our jobs and resources while polluting our seas, and opt instead for cutting the budget, creating American jobs and preserving our environment,” said Self.