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Shipwrecks litter the coastal waters of the U.S.  (Source:
Arggh yee, maties, she be a toxic PCB drifting off the starboard bow!

DailyTech has previously reported about the rising epidemic of tech trash.  The export of tech trash, largely from the U.S. to third world nations, has become an international problem which has gotten so bad the U.S. Congress is considering tough new measures to curb the effects.  However, while some tech trash may be getting dumped on foreign soils, there's another major realm of tech trash that is only now beginning to be fully recognized -- the sea.

Every year boats, barges and ships sink in coastal waters around the U.S. due to accidents, weather damage, age or an owner's financial duress.  The majority is never recovered and lay rotting on the seabed.  The problem has taken on high-tech ramifications, as modern boats often have onboard computers and circuitry, much of which contains toxic chemicals.

Doug Helton, acting director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program describes, "You go to any harbor or shoreline in the country and you'll find derelict and abandoned vessels."

There may be as many as 10,000 sunken vessels surrounding the U.S. coast, with 400 to 500 being sunk in 2005 alone, with the arrival of Hurricane Katrina.  The wrecks typically leach toxic petroleum into the surrounding areas says Mr. Helton.  And while the petroleum chemicals will drift away, the PCBs onboard the ships will not and continue to leach toxic chemicals.  Mr. Helton says that these chemicals move up the food chain and are likely to eventually be ingested by humans.

The wrecks can also destroy local ecosystems.  The leaching iron can attract corallimorph, organisms in the same family as corals and sea anemones, which attack and kill corals and other sea life.  This phenomenon was recently verified by Thierry Work, a wildlife disease specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey, and his colleagues, in the journal PLoS One. He describes, "It's a carpet of living animals that destroyed all the other organisms underneath.  We were able to show man-made structures were responsible for the growth of these organisms."

The wreckage can also directly kill fish and other sea creatures.  According to Keith Criddle, a marine policy professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks the leading killer of endangered monk seals is fishing equipment aboard wrecks.  A 2004 report titled "An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century," the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy found that more than 267 different species were being adversely impacted by derelict fishing gear.

Professor Criddle and others have called on Congress to improve efforts to remove the marine trash, particular the fish equipment and toxic tech trash.  They say the biggest need is for a cohesive plan as their currently is a lack of organization in efforts.  While many states have fines for abandonment, often they are not strictly enforced and it’s less costly to take the fine that take apart the ship.  Breaking down a 40 foot yacht can cost as little as $5,000 to $10,000, but often it can cost up to 100 times that amount. 

Recently, Washington State has funded some efforts for boat removal and the U.S. Congress has given the NOAA some funding to remove boats from coral reefs.  While these efforts are helping, they cannot keep up with the pace of sinking ships, without more help.

One additional undesirable side effect of the PCB leaching has also surfaced -- "increased catchability".  While this may sound like a good thing, it’s a headache for fishers, as it causes regions to quickly be depleted of fish and lowers their overall revenue.

Mr. Helton says that with new government efforts technology aboard the ships and any fishing gear could be secured so the ship was not harming the environment, even if there were not funds to totally dismantle the ship.  He urges citizens as well to remember, "when a vessel is lost it's not gone."

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RE: First global warming
By invidious on 10/3/2008 10:10:08 AM , Rating: -1
Actually thats not a fact, its an opinion. Last time I checked life was still going on. Thus the point of too much has not yet been reached. Power to the polluters!

RE: First global warming
By InvertMe on 10/3/2008 10:19:09 AM , Rating: 5
by invidious on October 3, 2008 at 10:10 AM

Actually thats not a fact, its an opinion. Last time I checked life was still going on. Thus the point of too much has not yet been reached. Power to the polluters!

Enter the "stupid" part of the population.

RE: First global warming
By odessit740 on 10/3/08, Rating: -1
RE: First global warming
By InvertMe on 10/3/2008 11:07:32 AM , Rating: 5
Okay Mr. Smart guy. Why don't you go crawl in a cave and invent some SOAP AND WATER to do the clean part of manufacturing electronics. When you come up with it, come on out and let us know. We'll use it. Until then, STFU!

Actually that is my job now. I assist with creating better less wasteful processes in a mid sized manufacturing plant. Hopefully the work I am doing will translate into other fields and types of manufacturing. So far most (not all) of the changes we make result in reduced costs mostly due to less wasteful processes.

I am a tree hugger - I fully admit it. I choose nature over waste any day of the week. That said I also fully enjoy the benefits of modern life. There is a balance there and I am sure people can meet it.

RE: First global warming
By mindless1 on 10/4/2008 5:11:56 PM , Rating: 3
You choose to consume electronics, use power, just to come here and post conversations about news topics.

Sure, you're enjoying the benefits of modern life, like everyone else, and that's why we have so much pollution. There is no one group of people to blame, it's all of us with these ideas that our lifestyle matters more, that we can demand some arbitrary standard of living and insist that only the means to have that would change.

There is nothing to admit, you're not a tree hugger and do not choose nature. Neither do I, but at least I'm honest with myself about it.

RE: First global warming
By chmilz on 10/3/2008 11:18:21 AM , Rating: 5
Where the HELL do you morons come from? Do you use the preview button? Don't you realize how stupid you sound? F*ck you're ignorant.

Anyway, on to my argument...

The reality is and has been for some time that we need to develop cleaner ways to do everyday things. Our consume-everything lifestyle, multiplied by population, will eventually overwhelm nature. Even as most industries are already finding ways every day to clean up their processes, this article is simply pointing out one aspect most of us may not have considered.

RE: First global warming
By JonnyDough on 10/3/2008 11:47:02 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Humans impact nature, mostly because we are a PART of nature. We create NON-ORGANIC compounds, everything else that is living only creates organic wastes which are easily cleaned by nature. We need to learn to be more responsible or nature suffers. When nature suffers, obviously we suffer too. We are afterall a PART of nature.

RE: First global warming
By invidious on 10/3/08, Rating: -1
RE: First global warming
By insurgent on 10/3/2008 7:20:37 PM , Rating: 3
Riiight, because dead rivers, smog, etc isn't disastrous enough, let's wait til the sh*t really hits the fan. Until then pollute all you want... in this guy's yard as much as possible, at least keep our own yards clean.

RE: First global warming
By AssBall on 10/4/2008 5:32:32 PM , Rating: 2
No thanks. Stop supporting dumb ass laws that have this mentality. I like my oil and smoked filled yard... you can f- off with your silly and scientifically unproven legislation ideas.

RE: First global warming
By JonnyDough on 10/3/2008 11:56:20 PM , Rating: 2
Define "fact."

In science, a fact is a peer-reviewed statement that has been re-tested and proven to be true by a large majority.

Some facts can exist for a long time and be debunked at a later date. i.e. the world is flat.

It is widely agreed upon that ANY pollution is TOO MUCH pollution, as long as it's detrimental to nature it is also detrimental to us. "People polluting too much" is considered FACT by most Americans, it's why there's a huge green movement in all industries right now. If you don't think that people are polluting too much you're obviously a minority with your opinion. As for the rest of us, we can see the obvious. I'm sorry you can't. You'd rather sit here and argue semantics than actually get on board and try to make the world a better place.

What is truly sad, is that there are so many people with an "I-don't-care attitude" that are just taking up space and making life less enjoyable for those of us who do care and who want a brighter and better future for our children.

I for one believe in privacy, freedom, the right to be respected. I do not believe in ownership, I think capitalism is evil and so is money. Some might think of me as a hippy and that's ok. I'm a marketing major who dislikes capitalism, go figure. The fact is that those people fail to see the bigger picture of how money really is the root of all evil, and how it corrupts our society.

As a child, I was taught to share. It was a valuable lesson that is no longer part of American society. We simply do not share, unless we get a tax cut out of it which actually just means more money for us.

It is time to learn what honor and respect are. Get some.

RE: First global warming
By theapparition on 10/6/2008 7:06:48 AM , Rating: 2
As a child, I was taught to share. It was a valuable lesson that is no longer part of American society.

Sharing was never part of the American society, however, there once was this place called the USSR.........

RE: First global warming
By Gumby16 on 10/3/2008 2:42:27 PM , Rating: 4
All I can say is this- the next time we need to dump some trash or sink a ship, we should do it on your lawn. We'll leach the chemicals into your groundwater so that your dog can get leukemia, your kids can have learning disabilities from heavy metal poisoning, and your yard can look like New Orleans after Katrina.

You're right about one thing. Life goes on. But you miss the bigger point. The QUALITY of life goes down. If you want a shorter life and an ugly backyard, that's fine. We'll dump in your neck of the woods.

There is also a problem with your argument. Nothing in the basic argument was opinion. FACT- unrecovered ships are a growing issue in coastal waters. FACT- they are leaching substances that ultimately impact the ecosystem (that means you since you're part of the system), mostly in a negative way. FACT- if we removed these items, we could avoid many of the problems associated with chemical leaching. Where, exactly, is the fear mongering? Just because someone points out a problem and wants to find a solution does NOT mean they are fear mongering. And just because someone cares about the environment they live in and wants to keep it clean does NOT make them some kind of evil, anti-capitalist tree-hugger.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
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