Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bay Area Cancer Rate Not a Deterrent To Housing Market

Why would anyone want to pay Marin's exorbitant price for housing to live here? One would think that Marin's extremely elevated rates of breast cancer and other rather weird forms of cancer would deter people.

Why do we suffer from such an increased rate of cancer? Could it possibly have anything to do with a radio active aircraft carrier scuttled off the Farallon Islands that is contaminating the water we swim in and the fish we eat?

Below is a reprint of the article:
"Hidden Wrecks: Nuclear Ship Below

By KPIX - Ken Bastida
Wednesday February 27

For the past few weeks, efforts have been made to stop oil leaks from a sunken ship just off the Golden Gate.

But there other dangerous wrecks off our coast, including one where the problem isn't oil, but radiation.

Nuclear tests on a remote island in the South Pacific helped establish America's military might after World War II.

But the experiments also contaminated dozens of ships with highly radioactive fallout, including one that ended its life here in the Bay Area: The USS Independence.

Kart Herman of the USGS (news - web sites): "It was one of small carriers used in the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb test, When it was brought here it was too hot to decontaminate."

Despite that contamination the Navy decided to scuttle the Independence, in waters near the Farallon Islands.

Sailors were still allowed on board the radioactive carrier, just before it was sent to the bottom in 1951.

And the Independence wasn't the only radioactive dumping the government engaged in. Over the next several decades they also sunk thousands of barrels of low-level nuclear waste in the same area.

Several years ago, the USGS was able to photograph some of them with an underwater camera. They also used sonar to map the area. And turned up another tantalizing clue.

A ship that Herman Karl believes could be the Independence.

"We saw features we knew weren't geological, we saw one big object with one could interpret is the Independence.... What you'd have to do is go down with camera system that's submersible."

And now, there may be renewed interest in taking a closer look at the Independence, and those barrels of nuclear waste, because we've recently gotten a first hand lesson in what decades of rust and rough seas can do.

This month, a mysterious oil leak was traced to another rusting wreck, just a few miles away.

And if oil can cause this kind of environmental damage, how concerned should we be about radiation?

Ed Ueber is director of the Gulf of the Farallons Sanctuary: "Should we be zeroing in? Yes. We should have a much better feel because of the episodic nature. What radioactive levels could be if something decays."

Herman Karl adds, "We don't know anything about radioactivity of the vessel. Nobody since it's been scuttled has measured radiation around the vessel."

And the technology is here.

Companies like Deep Ocean Engineering -- which is being contracted to work on the leaking oil tanker -- routinely reach wrecks in water as deep as the Independence. Waters that are also home to some of the most diverse marine life on the West Coast.

But is the risk enough to warrant the expense of a new dive?

Karl: "We can certainly locate and identify these vessels, that's easy enough to do.... It really depends on how much interest there is from the public.

And that interest could build, if the potential danger off our coast becomes even more apparent.

For more Bay Area news and information, visit the PIX Page at"


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