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U.S. EPA finds high levels of PCBs on WWII ship

Release Date: 5/4/2004
Contact Information: Laura Gentile, 415/947-4227 (

Findings delay plans to send ship overseas for recycling

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently confirmed that a decommissioned World War II ship docked in Vallejo cannot be shipped to China because it contains significant amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls.

The EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act prohibits the export of materials containing more than 50 parts per million of PCBs. The EPA analyzed samples from the ship and identified PCB concentrations greater than 125,000 parts per million.

The former USS Crescent City, currently docked at the former Mare Island Naval shipyard, was scheduled to be sent to China for recycling last month. This week the EPA told the ship owners, Sanship, Inc. that they will need to properly remove and dispose of the toxic materials before the ship can be transported overseas.

"The EPA prohibits older ships from being sent overseas in situations where high levels of PCBs can end up endangering the health and safety of workers in other countries," said Enrique Manzanilla, director of the cross media division for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "We shouldn't transfer our hazardous materials to other countries that may not be as well-equipped or trained to deal with these materials."

During the two-day inspection, the EPA collected and analyzed more than 20 samples from a wide range of materials on the ship, including oil, paint, gaskets and electrical cables.

The EPA and the ship's owner are currently discussing options to ensure proper disposal of PCBs on the ship.

The ship -- which is 490 feet long and weighs 8,500 tons -- was used during World War II to transport troops and supplies. Between 1971 and 1995 the ship was used for training exercises at the California Maritime Academy.

More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned the chemicals in 1978. Prior to 1978, PCBs were commonly used in insulation oil, paints, industrial equipment, plastics and rubber products. The EPA banned the chemicals after tests showed that PCBs cause cancer in animals and adversely affect the nervous, immune and endocrine systems.