The California division of SHC was contacted in August 2013 about an upcoming clean-up of Oakland Estuary in San Francisco Bay. After various submissions and protocol we were hired by EQM (http://www.eqm.com/) on an on-going basis to be their exclusive Hazardous Materials clean up company. The contract was deemed to be ongoing by the EPA as they were the ultimate project managers and who were in charge of all clearance testing. I and Alfonso Rico (Operations Manager) would see the project through to its completion in December 2013.
The clean up had come about as a result of environmental planning by Federal, State, County and Marine districts working together and ultimately passing a special State law in July 2013 at State level specific to the Oakland estuary. This enabled Federal monies to be released and start the process of cleaning the waters of this region of the Bay Area. It had been noted in previous surveys that this estuary had an abnormally high volume of abandoned older ships that were known to contain hazardous materials, mainly lead and asbestos, both harmful to human and mammal life as well as the environment overall.
We began our operation in early November with our first ship. This was an average size fishing vessel about 42 feet long with a galley and an inside engine room. The ship was lifted/dredged by EQM to dry land (only after a team of divers had determined that the boat would not break apart on lifting) so the EPA could carry out a more detailed survey. At this point we were put on notice and after the report was finalized we moved in and abated any hazardous materials that were determined by the survey. (Note: One of the main reasons we were hired is that the EPA and all other parties involved wanted a team ready to go at short notice, with good proximity to the site with good experience and an excellent track record. They did not want to have to wait for bids to filter in while a boat full of potential hazardous materials sat on site.)
The above photo shows where we removed asbestos containing material from the base of the flue stack.
After completing one ship, we got a call from EQM to come out and view another one. This ship was still in the water and we had to decide what would be the best way to deal with a precarious situation. This was new territory for all of us. We took a ride out with the coastguard to take a look. It, like the first one, was an old fishing boat but was wedged under and attached to a dock that had floated away with tidal currents and had ended up about ¼ mile from shore. The major concerns here were that detaching it from the pier may cause it to break apart and/or collapse and sink along with all its hazardous waste, thus rendering the whole operation useless. I suggested that we do the survey on the water and go from there to determine what we were dealing with and depending on what the survey revealed, we may be able to do the abatement on the water; again new territory for us but we were up for the challenge. A major factor in my decision was the summer like weather we were having at the time in early December.
After much deliberation, it was decided to do the abatement on location with a small team. Given that we would be on the water dealing with a partially submerged semi-rotten ship, working from another boat and using the broken pier as a staging post, the A team was called in!
Just another day of life on the ocean wave for our guys !
There would be 2 SHC experts, our boat captain from the US Coastguard, a rep from EQM and finally an EPA monitor on this project. Our workers would be in full tyvek suits, with life-vests and one in a safety harness attached to the Coastguard boat!
The work involved the following:
1. Remove caulking ACM from around window of cabin on abandoned boat attached to an unusable/abandoned pier.
2. This work was performed on the water by 2 workers, with one in a safety harness and both with a personal flotation device.
Then we got called in again, this time the stakes had been raised considerably.The final ship on this phase of the project would be significantly larger than the others, however, a definite size and scope of work would not be clear until the divers and the Coastguard could deliver their findings.
The largest marine crane on the US West coast was deployed form Seattle by EQM for this lift. What we discovered was a 150 foot sea-trawler with 5 decks that had been under water for approximately 35 years. The survey by the EPA revealed TSI (thermal system insulation) at numerous locations including the kitchen, engine room and smoke stack on the upper level.
They also determined that a lot of the mud and sludge (more like a slurry when we started) on the lowest decks had very high levels of asbestos and this needed to be bagged out. Due to the volume, location and tightness of the work conditions this proved to be extremely laborious. Added to this was the fact that we found approximately 150 bags (+-4200 lbs) of existing bagged asbestos water that had been left on the ship. We ended up re-bagging all of this!
SHC ended up removing +- 1250 bags ( 55000 lbs ) of TSI and about 200 bags ( 10000lbs ) of asbestos containing mud/sludge from the boat and it is currently being demolished on the water to a size where they can lift it onto dry land for the completion of the wrecking and disposal.
Some of the things we noticed in particular that were different on this last phase of the project and making it a little more challenging were:
• Extremely dirty ( considering the ship had been partially to fully submerged for close to 40 years
• The narrowness of the stairwells leading to the lower levels of the boat, where obviously most of the dirtier work had to be done, made for slippery and messy conditions
• Darker than usual conditions and working with headlight equipment at all times
Finally, many people have asked what happens to these ships after the project. The ssips are broken down, crushed and transported to metal scrap yards. So the next time you’re cruising the highways and byways of California you may be driving beside a boat that SHC abated……………………..in the form of a car or truck !