McMaster: Yorktown pollutants threaten the environment. It’s time to clean them up. | Comment
Protecting our natural environment should always be one of our top priorities. And today, that means clearing the aircraft carrier Yorktown.
The good Lord has richly blessed South Carolina, from the mountains to the sea. Within our borders – in our own backyards – are nationally recognized ecological wonders and epic historic sites.
Among these geographical treasures are approximately 2,876 miles of pristine coastline. This includes approximately 200 miles of direct beachfront and nearby ecosystems such as marshes, estuaries, barrier islands and tidal creeks. These rich resources not only serve as a source of pride, pleasure and pursuit, but also generate a significant portion of the state’s investment and economic activities.
Three years ago I issued an executive order creating the SC Floodwater Commission. This agency is responsible for providing a comprehensive catalog and assessment of state assets and mitigation efforts related to the impacts of floods, storms, and natural disasters, with a particular focus on cities, communities, and businesses. located along the coast and rivers of the state.
Among the Flood Water Commission’s recommendations was the creation of the Office of Resilience at the Cabinet level and the post of Resilience Officer. The General Assembly agreed, and last year I had the honor of appointing Ben Duncan, who served as director of the Office of Disaster Recovery, as the first resilience manager in South Carolina . At that time, South Carolina became one of the few states to have a resilience officer.
The Resilience Manager and Office of Resilience are responsible for developing and coordinating the implementation of comprehensive statewide mitigation, recovery, and resiliency initiatives. These initiatives are designed to improve South Carolina’s preparedness and response to natural disasters and other adverse events and conditions. Water, storms and hurricanes will always be with us. We must find ways to use, channel, mitigate and accommodate these forces. As environmental leaders often say, “We need to make water our friend.
The Yorktown is an Essex-class aircraft carrier built during World War II. The ship and her crews served with distinction until the end of the war and during the Korean and Vietnam wars. It’s an inspiring part of our history.
Decommissioned in 1970, Yorktown was donated by the Navy to the State of South Carolina in 1975 to become a museum ship at the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum on Charleston Harbor. Its remarkable presence on the horizon of the port attracts more than 300,000 visitors each year. In 1986, the carrier was declared a National Historic Landmark.
Unfortunately, when the Yorktown arrived in Charleston, it contained significant hazardous contaminants. In 2013, the Patriots Point Development Authority commissioned a study to assess the environmental remediation of approximately 160,000 gallons of oil and 1.6 million gallons of polluted water and polychlorinated biphenyl compounds that had not been removed from the ship’s 428 tanks or compartments by the Navy. . At that time, the study concluded that the remediation effort would cost up to $4.4 million.
Over time, continued corrosion of the outer shell will inevitably lead to deterioration and failure of the tanks. If these hazardous materials escape from Yorktown and enter the harbour, they will interfere with commercial shipping and boat traffic, and cause immeasurable damage to the area’s natural resources, including the harbor ecosystem, marshes , estuaries, barrier islands, streams and nearby beaches. .
It would be a disaster for Charleston, the Lowcountry and the entire state. So now is the time to eliminate these deadly toxins.
Earlier this month, I issued an executive order directing the Office of Resilience to commission an updated cost study for the Yorktown Remediation Project. Once this is complete, the agency will begin researching the appropriate regulatory and procurement processes to begin this massive cleanup effort.
In my 2022 Executive Budget and State of the State Address, I asked the General Assembly to authorize the Office of Resilience to spend a portion of American Rescue Plan Act funds to proceed to a complete sanitization of the contents of Yorktown. I commend the Legislative Assembly for working with me on this. I can think of no more meritorious use of taxpayer funds than to protect and preserve our pristine natural resources for future generations in South Carolina.
The keys to our success in South Carolina are education, the environment and our economy. Each supports the other, and all three in unison must be strong to open the doors of prosperity and happiness to our people.
In South Carolina, we have it all: a beautiful state with an ocean, rivers, lakes and mountains; a diversified and prosperous economy; and a dedicated workforce with enormous potential. It’s because we’re a state of great people in a great place that our future is brighter than ever.
Henry McMaster is the governor of South Carolina.