Toxic Trade News / 14 December 2010
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Will the U.S. Navy Dump Or Recycle John McCain's Old Ship?
by Jess Leber,
  Photo credit: Rennett Stowe via Flickr  
14 December 2010 – The Navy aircraft carrier on which Senator John McCain served during his youth is now nearing retirement. Next year, the USS Forrestal is due to be dumped into the deep water somewhere off the East Coast.

No, the Navy doesn't have it in for John McCain. It is actually common policy for the Navy to retire its ships by using them as target practice and letting them sink to the bottom of the ocean floor. The Navy says this is good for the environment because it creates artificial reefs and fish habitat.

But according to a recent report by the Basel Action Network, this ocean dumping policy needs to go: Dumping old ships can be environmentally destructive by encouraging overfishing and is certainly more costly (both to the environment and to taxpayers) than dismantling them and recycling their valuable parts.

According to the report, the Navy doesn't think about all the advantages of its recycling in its decision to dump 73 ships over the last decade. Rather, recycling those ships would have created 20,000 jobs and saved 560,000 tons of steel, copper and aluminum worth about half a billion dollars. What's more recycling is actually cheaper than creating artificial reefs.

"The Obama Administration has recently gone out of its way to promote recycling and initiatives for healthy seas. Meanwhile entrenched policies continue to promote every excuse to throw our old ships containing many tons of critical metals and toxic pollutants directly into the sea. It's time for a more rational policy," says Colby Self, the Basel Action Network's Green Ship Recycling Campaign Director.

There is a unique opportunity to influence this outdated policy this week, as Navy brass meet at the Pentagon tomorrow to decide how to dispose of ships due to be retired soon, such as McCain's old digs. Other ships include the USS Arthur Radford, a navy destroyer scheduled to be sunk in April 2011. But U.S. EPA and the Navy are struggling to remove all the toxic substances aboard before they sink the ship, and the contractor doing the prep, American Marine Group, is already under investigation by EPA for it shoddy work removing toxic PCBs from another ship.

Self says that if the Radford were recycled, not sunk, it would be worth $6 million in recycling metals that would otherwise site rotting on the ocean floor. The Basel Action Network, which says it's the only organization in the world focused on confronting the environmental injustices of the "global toxic trade," is asking the Navy to stop dumping and start recycling.

Join their call this week. Tell the U.S. Navy to change its ocean dumping policy and start by saving the USS Arthur Radford and USS Forrestal from a long life of purgatory in the ocean's graveyard.

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Select images courtesy of Chris Jordan