In 1991, Typhoon Val struck American Samoa and grounded nine long liner fishing vessels on the reef in Pago Pago Harbor. The potential for oil spills from the wrecks and the lack of an identifiable responsible party, prompted the U.S. Coast Guard Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) at Marine Safety Office (MSO) Honolulu to immediately federalize the project. Unfortunately, only a portion of the oil was discovered and removed and a viable responsible party was never identified. Because of repeated small spills from the vessels in subsequent years and the potential for a much larger spill due to remaining oil onboard, the FOSC again federalized in May 1999, and a cleanup contractor was deployed to the scene. The Coast Guard supervised response efforts that employed heavy equipment to cut open six of the vessels in the inner harbor to remove oil and hazardous materials. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) then administered removal of the remaining portions of the wrecks using Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) funding. In March 2000, a salvage contractor pulled the two remaining wrecks intact from the reef in the outer harbor and sunk them at a pre-designated offshore dump site. At the conclusion of the response, nearly 36,000 gallons of oil and approximately 600 pounds of anhydrous ammonia were removed from the wrecks at a cost of over $12 million. Restoration costs totaled approximately $3 million.
The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Coast Guard; Pacific Environmental Corporation; Crowley Marine Services, Inc.; Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; or American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency.