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New Sheen Spreads As Officials Discuss Cleanup Costs

By Scott Radway

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (January 4, 2002 – Pacific Daily News)---Yap State officials are again asking the United States to drain oil from a sunken World War II ship, after it recently created another large oil sheen off Ulithi Atoll.

"Clearly, we have no means to respond," said Jesse Raglmar-Subolmar, Yap State's disaster coordinator. "We are in big trouble in terms of financing."

According to reports from Ulithi, the newest sheen was noticed Dec. 23 as it spread about four miles out from that island chain, Raglmar-Subolmar said yesterday. Luckily, this time, the oil is headed away from areas fished by the majority of the atoll's 700 residents, he said.

"But I don't think our environment can sustain further oil leaks," he added. The Ulithi lagoon is the main food source for people who live on Ulithi.

The first leak occurred when the USS Mississinewa -- a 553-foot Navy fuel ship sunk during World War II in the Ulithi lagoon -- was jarred during an Aug. 6 storm.

A fishing ban was issued until that leak was sealed by divers contracted by the Navy. Environmentalists reported that impact from that leak was minimal.

Yap officials then asked the United States to pay for the removal of the remaining oil, but no action has been taken. Yap has since put out a call for proposals to drain the oil from the ship.

But Raglmar-Subolmar said he doesn't believe Yap has the money for the removal, unless the oil can be sold after it is pumped off. Raglmar-Subolmar said it is unclear how much oil is left on the Navy oiler.

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Pohnpei, where Yap made its request, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Local Navy officials have noted the United States is not likely to remove the oil, because it might make the government liable for cleaning up every vessel sunk during a war.

No action has been taken in response to the recent leak, local Navy spokeswoman Lt. Monica Richardson said yesterday.

[See: USS Mississinewa at http://www.ussmississinewa.com/home.html


For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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