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Project Underway to Remove Old Fuel From the Yorktown

Molly Hamilton Mar 15, 2017

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is taking the first steps to address repairs called for in 2015 structural assessment of the USS Yorktown.  Over the past two weeks, a contracted crew has worked to remove more than 60,000 gallons of fuel and an oily water mixture from six fuel tanks in a 52-foot section in the ship located below the fourth deck near the bow.  On Friday, March 10, the museum invited members of the media to tour the areas involved in the project and learn more about the task from project leaders.

“When the state of South Carolina took ownership of the Yorktown from the Navy in 1975, the ship was given to us with more than 160,000 gallons of fuel onboard,” said Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette.  “Before we can tackle the larger projects called for in the 2015 structural assessment of the ship, we have to remove the fuel and oily water mixture that have been found onboard. Foremost in our mind is the removal of this hazardous fuel, so that an accidental puncture or leak can never threaten the Charleston harbor.”

Patriots Point Director of Operations Bob Howard explains the process of removing the old fuel from the Yorktown

At Friday’s media event, Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum Director of Operations Bob Howard addressed the members of the media and explained the current project.  The current work is the first phase of the fuel removal and tank cleaning.  “We have a long, long way to go on the entire project, but you’ve got to start somewhere, and we have officially begun,” Howard said.

The 2015 structural assessment found that that despite spending more than 40 years resting in the salty waters of the Charleston harbor, the Yorktown is in relatively great shape structurally, and poses no immediate risks to the environment. The contractor hired to conduct the assessment, Collins Engineering, estimated that $40 million of repairs to the ship’s hull will need to be addressed at some point the future.

However, before Patriots Point is able to address the recommended repairs to the hull of the USS Yorktown, the fuel must be removed because as Howard pointed out to the members of the media, any welding on the structure of the Yorktown would include heat that should not be brought near potentially flammable substances.

The current project will remove fuel and oily water from six of the 129 tanks that ultimately will need to be emptied and cleaned.  In addition to fuel, the tanks include ballast water that was added to help the Yorktown settle into its current location when it arrived under tow in 1975. Over time, the ballast water has mixed with oil residue and now must be removed and separated as part of this project.  After the fuel and oily water are removed, they will be separated and the fuel will be recycled as possible (by another outside contractor).

Howard said the remaining 100,000 gallons will likely be removed in the next two or three years as funds become available in the budget.  Patriots Point has contracted with AAA Utility and Construction to remove the fuel for $132,000. GEL Engineering is managing the removal, and crews from Moran Environmental Recovery are handling the dirty work of removing the fuel and liquids from the six tanks and then cleaning them. The funding for the project is coming from Patriots Point’s reserve account.  The current project should be complete by the end of March and does not affect the public on tour in any way.

Check out the gallery of photos below of the media touring the areas of the fuel removal project:

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