NOAA concerned about oil spills but not toxic chemical releases


Date:       July 8, 2019
From:      South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce
Subject:   NOAA concerned about oil spills but not toxic chemicals
Contact:   Frank Knapp, President/CEO, 803-252-5733, 803-600-6874 (c),

Columbia, SC—A recent story in the Charlotte Observer cites a June 29th NOAA report concerning the federal agency’s Atlantic Coast expedition to locate a World War II-era sunken tanker with its over 4.4 million gallons of crude oil on board.  The concern is that corrosion of the 75-year old vessel could cause “seams to split and release the oil cargo”, says Mike Brennan, a maritime archaeologist who was a member of the expedition team.  The vessel has not been found.

“While it is good to see NOAA making an effort to find and mitigate a potential oil disaster from a sunken container off the coast of Hilton Head/Savannah,” said Frank Knapp Jr., President and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC), “it begs the question of why the agency is not concerned about the tens of thousands of conventional and chemical weapons as well as radioactive waste drums littering the same Atlantic coastline  including South Carolina’s.”

On April 19, 2018, the SCSBCC submitted comments to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) warning the agency that proposed seismic airgun blasting used to explore for offshore oil might release toxic chemicals from the extensive amount of deteriorating munitions and radioactive waste containers in the Atlantic, some of which are 100 years old.  The NMFS approved Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) late last year, a necessary step before seismic testing permits can be issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“How can NOAA say that it is concerned about oil pollution from a fragile, corroded sunken oil tanker, one of over 25 high or medium risk sunken vessels identified along the Atlantic Coast, yet still approve the use of intense seismic airgun blasting to explore for oil in exactly the same areas?  It appears that NOAA’s right hand doesn’t know what its left hand is doing,” said Knapp.

“NOAA should be conducting scientific research to determine if seismic impulses could possibly set oil free from sunken, corroded containers just as it should be doing the same research on sunken, corroded munitions and radioactive waste containers,” said Knapp.

The SCSBCC and 16 SC coastal cities filed a lawsuit this past December against the federal government over the approval of IHAs citing the failure of the NMFS to consider socio-economic impacts of seismic airgun blasting.  NOAA’s report, Risk Assessment for Potentially Polluting Wrecks in U.S.Waters (page 50), acknowledges that socio-economic resources at risk from spills from sunken wrecks should be a consideration when determining the government’s mitigation efforts.


The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce is a statewide advocacy organization founded in 2000.  With over 10,000 small business and entrepreneur supporters, it has successfully worked to make South Carolina more small business friendly in areas such as healthcare, taxation, regulation, worker training, energy/conservation, workers’ compensation and economic development.

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