The M/V Golden Ray continues to lie between St. Simons and Jekyll islands, partially submerged, like a misbegotten monument welcoming travelers to this coast. And while it’s likely to be there for some time, work continues on trying to make certain the environmental impacts of the capsizing are as minimal as possible.
Staff with the Altamaha Riverkeeper flew over the area Monday afternoon to get a look at what’s changed over the weekend.
“What we’re trying to see at the boat is if we see any sheen around the boat,” said Fletcher Sams, executive director for the Altamaha Riverkeeper. “They still have not verified that the leak is contained — that’s what they’re looking to do, so we’re trying to see what the booming strategy is and what it looks like at the boat.”
The News flew with Altamaha Coastkeeper Susan Inman, and from that aerial vantage point, it was difficult to tell what may have been in the water where, considering visual effects like the shadows cast on the sea by clouds. However, the only booms out appeared to be on the east side of Bird Island, a dredge spoil area between Jekyll Island and the marsh that’s become a favorite location for migratory shorebirds.
“We saw that they were back to work at the cargo ship — the only booms we saw were around Bird Island,” Inman said. “However, we are still waiting to hear back from the Coast Guard about complete containment.”
The Unified Command recently said they won’t know the total amount of contaminant spilled until after the vessel’s recovery, which is months away. The priority at the moment is making sure liquids on the vessel are properly secured. It’s believed there’s around 300,000 gallons of fuel on board, which is significantly more than initially reported.
According to the Command’s fifth update, released around 4:30 p.m. Monday, response teams are continuing to canvass “multiple shorelines to identify environmental impacts and ensure boom is optimally deployed,” while the command continues to work on creating a comprehensive plan to remove pollutants from the craft.
“We currently have approximately 160 local, state and federal responders here to protect public health and the environment,” John Maddox, the state on-scene coordinator, said in a statement.
Thursday, Mark Dodd, head of the state Department of Natural Resources’ sea turtle program, posted on Facebook that there were no document oiled birds, sea turtles or marine mammals, up to that point. However, some debris associated with oil containment did wash up on St. Simons Island last week.
The Unified Command advises that anyone who finds oiled wildlife should report it to the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research Oil Spill Hotline at 800-261-0980.