PHOENIX - Arizona Sen. John McCain's old aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Forrestal, now is to be recycled instead of being scuttled at sea. The U.S. Navy says three other carriers also will be recycled instead of dumping them in the ocean to create artificial reefs.
Colby Self, Green Ship Recycling Campaign director for Seattle-based Basel Action Network, says the new policy will save taxpayers millions of dollars by recycling valuable metals while reducing decontamination costs involved in sinking a ship.
"The biggest thing that they're looking at removing is PCBs, which are persistent toxic materials that fish can take up and pass them through the food chain up through humans. Asbestos has to be removed, all the hydrocarbons. It's a very, very expensive effort."
Years ago, Self says, the Navy thought it sounded like a great idea to use old ships to create fish habitat while also solving the disposal problem. But now, he says, there are serious concerns about ocean pollution and the high cost to taxpayers.
Self, who authored a Basel Action Network report titled "Jobs and Dollars Overboard," estimates that recycling the Forrestal alone will create 500 "green" jobs in the domestic recycling industry and lead to 1,900 jobs in the overall economy for a year.
"We've looked into nearly 95 vessels that the Navy has sunk over the past decade, and the way the numbers play out, it's much more beneficial to the federal taxpayer for the Navy to actually recycle these vessels."
Self says his research suggests there may be no net benefit to sinking ships to create artificial reefs.
"Some scientists actually suggest that artificial reefs merely attract fish from wide-ranging areas where they can be easily harvested by fishermen. So, in effect, artificial reefs could actually be leading to overfishing."
The Basel Action Network has campaigned for three years to end disposal of obsolete vessels by sinking them.