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Yorktown Needs Cleanup Work

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The USS Yorktown is berthed behind Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina at Patriots Point. Photo by Rob Lucey
The USS Yorktown is berthed behind Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina at Patriots Point. Photo by Rob Lucey

The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown needs more than $4 million in cleanup work, according to a study released by the Patriots Point Development Authority which manages the ship as the centerpiece of Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum on Charleston Harbor. The report from The Shaw Group outlines the environmental conditions present aboard the vessel, which in April marked 70 years since its launch.

The report found that the carrier poses no environmental or health hazards to the public or to Charleston Harbor, but the vessel will need to be cleaned extensively prior to initiating major structural repairs, such as replacing steel plates.

The Shaw Group accessed and surveyed 428 vessel tanks/compartments aboard the ship, as well as other non-structural tanks and systems. Following the six-week survey, consultants found that 129 tanks contain petroleum residues totaling approximately 160,000 gallons of petroleum and 1.6 million gallons of impacted waters, and all radiological devices are low-level, posing no immediate risk.

“This is a great first step toward the long-term restoration of the USS Yorktown,” said Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette. “We’re glad to be able to report that The Shaw Group has found that none of the materials we’re talking about are in a location that could be harmful to our visitors. If we use due diligence as we begin our restoration work, there is no risk to our employees and no imminent threat to the environment.”

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Burdette said there have been discussions with the state’s senators regarding possible funding from the Navy to assist with the work.

The USS Yorktown was the 10th aircraft carrier to serve in the U.S. Navy. Under construction as Bon Homme Richard, it was renamed in honor of the Yorktown sunk at the epic Battle of Midway in June 1942. Built in less than 17 months at Newport News, Va., it was commissioned on April 15, 1943, and participated significantly in the Pacific Offensive that began in late 1943 and ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945. IT served in Vietnam and recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule before being decommissioned in 1970.

“There are many war ships that came out of the ‘mothball fleet’ to become museums during the 1970s,” Burdette added, noting that many of these museums are now facing similar challenges as related to the removal or mitigation of contaminants.


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