California to Sue Federal Government for Polluting Vessels in Suisun Bay

Initial lawsuit brought by environmental groups in October 2007 called for clean-up
SAN FRANCISCO (August 27, 2008) – To clean up toxic pollution caused by the deterioration of approximately 50 obsolete federal vessels anchored in Suisun Bay, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board today announced its intention to sue the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Water Board’s planned enforcement action will reinforce a suit brought last year by Arc Ecology, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and San Francisco Baykeeper to halt the ships’ discharge of more than nineteen tons of toxic heavy metals into Suisun Bay.

Following is a statement by Saul Bloom, executive director of Arc Ecology:
“These decrepit ships have been obsolete for decades and are now just floating vessels of hazardous waste. With the Water Board’s planned litigation, the pressure is mounting on MARAD to stop breaking the law and start protecting San Francisco Bay.”
Following is a statement by Sejal Choksi, program director for San Francisco Baykeeper:
“MARAD’s rotting ships are a massive source of pollutants to the fragile Bay-Delta ecosystem. We look forward to the Water Board joining our litigation to force MARAD to clean up its mess.”
Following is a statement byMichael Wall, senior attorney with NRDC:
“The San Francisco Bay cannot remain a dumping ground for toxic waste. Some of these ships have been wasting in the bay for 50 years. Clearly this is an issue of deep concern to everyone who treasures our precious Bay-Delta ecosystem, and we’re pleased the Water Board joined the fight.”
Arc Ecology, NRDC, and San Francisco Baykeeper brought suit in October 2007 to compel MARAD to cease illegal discharge of pollutants to Suisun Bay, to require MARAD to comply with state and federal hazardous and solid waste laws, and to assess the environmental impact of various options for disposing of the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. Many of the ships in the fleet were decommissioned and placed in storage in Suisun Bay after World War II and the Korean War with the idea that they could be reactivated later for wartime use. Today, however, many of the vessels are in an advanced state of decay – unseaworthy, leaking, severely rusted, and peeling toxic paint.

The Water Board today announced that it would bring suit to halt these pollution discharges to Suisun Bay. The Board’s claims parallel some of the claims filed by the environmental groups last year.