Governor McMaster Calls for Removal of Toxic Materials Aboard USS Yorktown | New
Governor Henry McMaster issued an executive order to remove toxic materials from the USS Yorktown. The historic aircraft carrier, which sits at Patriots Point and attracts 300,000 visitors a year, contains dangerous contaminants in the ship’s interior tanks.
At a press conference at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant on July 11, McMaster announced Executive Order 2022-20, which directs the South Carolina Office of Resilience (SCOR) to conduct an updated assessment of any remaining contaminants in the USS Yorktown.
Hazardous materials currently on board the aircraft carrier include hundreds of thousands of gallons of petroleum products, polluted ballast water and materials containing polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs). These materials were not removed from the ship’s inner tanks until Yorktown was donated to the State of South Carolina by the United States Navy in 1970.
“If these hazardous materials leak out of Yorktown into the harbour, it will be a disaster. They will interfere with commercial shipping and maritime traffic and cause immeasurable damage to their beautiful natural resources,” McMaster said.
The Patriots Point Development Authority commissioned an environmental survey of contaminants on the ship in 2013 which found the presence of PCBs. It will take around three to four months to update the study, according to Ben Duncan, SCOR’s Chief Resilience Officer.
“We look forward to working with all Heads of State, Patriots Point, Patriots Points of Authority, other state agencies that will be working with…for the remediation of contaminants on the vessel, so that we have no no problems in the future,” Duncan said.
Wayne Adams, vice chairman of the Patriots Point Development Authority board, said at the time of the study in 2013, there was no urgent need to remove the contaminants. Additionally, there was a lack of funds to cover the estimated $4.4 million cost associated with material removal.
In the announcement, McMaster directed SCOR to use available state or federal funds, including remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to South Carolina or federal funds allocated to the United States Navy to conduct the project well.
No material spilled or leaked into the port. Yet continued corrosion of the hull threatens to spread contaminants into Charleston Harbor and wreak havoc on the ecosystem.
“The pollutants stored aboard the USS Yorktown are harmful substances that pose a long-term risk to the health of the port, its wildlife and our community,” said SC Department of Natural Resources Director Robert Boyles. “They can build up in the sediment and would stay at the bottom of Charleston Harbor, where they would stay for a long time if we didn’t remove them.”
The USS Yorktown sailed in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. She was decommissioned in 1970 and donated to the State of South Carolina by the United States Navy in 1975. Next year USS Yorktown will celebrate 80 years since she was first commissioned in 1943.