HomeLocal NewsThe ship that crashed into a bridge while coming to Sri Lanka...

    The ship that crashed into a bridge while coming to Sri Lanka had containers of hazardous materials!

    Less than a week after a container ship rammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge— causing the Baltimore bridge to collapse and topple partly onto the ship — officials are still working to identify and contain environmental pollutants that may be leaking into the Patapsco River.

    So far, officials have released little information about the 764 tons ofhazardous materials onboard the container ship Dali or the source of a sheen seen on the surface of the water near the crash site.

    “Any time there’s a catastrophic event like this, there’s a potential for water pollution,” said Leda Huta, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a nonprofit water quality watchdog for the Chesapeake Bay. “There are more than a million people living in that watershed, and it’s been a longtime struggle to ensure that the community has clean water that’s swimmable, fishable and drinkable.”

    Here’s what to know about the potential environmental impacts of the crash.

    What hazardous materials were on the ship?

    The Dali was carrying 56 containers holding764 tons of hazardous materials, mostly corrosive and flammable liquids and lithium ion batteries, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Officials said 14 hazardous containers are damaged.

    Flammable and corrosive liquids typically travel in steel drums and tanks or industrial “totes” designed to safely transport hazardous materials. “While the [shipping] containers may be damaged from the bridge falling on them, those [drums and totes] are extremely strong and they can hold up very well,” said James Bell, president of ADCO Environmental Services, a Chicago-based company that does hazardous material cleanups.

    Video released by the NTSB shows inspectors taking stock of the hazardous materials onboard the ship. Some frames appear to show ruptured steel drums. An NTSB spokesperson declined to detail what’s inside the hazardous containers. An initial report listed soap, perfume and unspecified resins among the contents.

    The status of the containers with lithium ion batteries — which are made of toxic metals such as cobalt, nickel, and manganese — was not immediately clear.

    What’s causing the sheen on the Patapsco River?

    First responders reported a sheen on the Patapsco River, which appears to be pollution from the Dali. But officials haven’t figured out the exact source. At a news conference Friday, Petty Officer Kimberly Reaves, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Coast Guard, said a police helicopter was monitoring the sheen. “We are assessing the scene so our first responders can work safely,” Reaves said.

    Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mid-Atlantic regional administrator, said there is “no indication of active releases” from the Dali, but monitoring was ongoing.

    What are officials doing to contain leaks?

    Officials have placed 2,400 feet of sorbent boom, a floating material that can absorb oil spills, around the crash site to contain pollution. Sorbent booms are made from a material similar to disposable diapers and can’t contain oil for very long, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    Officials also placed 2,400 feet of hard containment boom around the ship. These plastic booms also float at the surface, but they have a weighted skirt that hangs underwater to stop oil from spreading.

    Investigators from the NTSB and the Coast Guard have boarded the Dali to inspect the hazardous materials on the ship, but they have not detailed their findings publicly.

    Could the local fishery be affected?

    To some degree. Maryland’s crab fishing season starts on April 1, and parts of the Patapsco near the Key bridge have long been popular with those who use trotlines — lines strung with bait — to catch blue crabs. Boating restrictions near the salvage site will prevent recreational fishermen from getting near the bridge for an indefinite period.

    CJ Canby, a captain who has been crabbing in the area for 23 years, said he wasn’t worried about the environmental impacts of the crash. He’s more worried about the impacts of wastewater treatment plants on the Patapsco Rivero and nearby Cox Creek, which he blames for algal blooms and fish kills.

    “Even if fuel oil spilled, it would still be nothing compared to what the sewage treatment plants are doing every single day,” said Canby.

    How does pollution figure in the area’s history?

    The Key Bridge collapsed amid a decades-long effort to clean up industrial pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and the Patapsco River.

    “This watershed and Baltimore’s waterways have been plagued with pollution for a long time,” said Huta. “That’s been trash. It’s been toxins and forever chemicals. It’s sewage and polluted stormwater. So it is a watershed that really has been taking a beating and can’t really afford new sources of pollution.”

    The bridge collapsed near the Sparrows Point Terminal superfund site, which was once the site of a steel plant that dumped toxic waste into the Patapsco River and nearby Bear Creek. Before the bridge collapsed, officials had been planning to clean up toxic sediments at the bottom of the creek and river.

    In a blog post, the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation raised concerns that cleanup efforts might stir up these toxic sediments, harming water quality and potentially sending the pollutants to wash up onshore in nearby residential areas, such as Turner Station, a predominantly Black community that faces frequent flooding.

    That was before several thousand tons of bridge debris fell into the Patapsco River. Officials will now have to remove the wreckage from the riverbed.

    “Front-line communities in the bigger Chesapeake Bay watershed have been bearing the burden of pollution and toxins disproportionately,” said Huta, “so it’s especially important that we put all of our efforts into righting that historic wrong.”

    Could there be other environmental impacts?

    Yes. With the Port of Baltimore shut down, cargo normally going through the port will have to be rerouted by truck, potentially increasing diesel emissions in areas that don’t experience that pollution. In addition, trucks that previously crossed the Key bridge — including those that carry hazardous material — will have to find other routes.

    Justin Moyer contributed to this report.
    Article by Washington Post

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