BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – City officials held a press conference Saturday afternoon at Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park to address the status of the USS The Sullivans, as it started flowing earlier this week.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the ship won’t be righted this weekend and “likely won’t be finished next week,” but assured the Naval Park, Coast Guard, City of Buffalo, Erie County and others are working to make this happen, calling it “a costly undertaking that we are all engaged in”.
Brown said the weather so far hasn’t been optimal to work on the ship, which has made it more difficult. He also urged the public to follow safety procedures in the area and to stay behind the protective fence, for the safety of workers on the ship and the public.
Paul Marzello, President and CEO of the Naval Park, presented the five main priorities of the operation:
- save the ship
- Make sure those working on the project are safe
- Remove all contaminants
- Stabilize the ship
- Be transparent with the community in posting information
“USS The Sullivans is a National Historic Landmark,” Marzello said. “She is a gift to Buffalo, NY and she represents the courage, honor and commitment, not only of the five Sullivan boys whose name this ship bears, but of the thousands of veterans who have served this country. “
Marzello said two more members will be added to the team – one he described as having “tremendous talent and commitment” – in the hope of saving the ship. It is a naval architect and an international rescue team. He reiterated the message he said all along, “failure is not an option”.
He spoke of the progress the team has made, saying they are reducing the amount of water they pump out of the vessel as they work to pump out more contaminants. Additionally, he dismissed rumors that the USS The Sullivans might be scrapped.
“There was no discussion about scrapping the ship,” Marzello said. “As we said from day one, we’re going to save her.”
Commander Bill McKinstry provided an overview of how the team goes about saving the Sullivans, as well as an overview of the addition of the Navy Architect, saying the team wanted someone who could provide expertise on the condition of the ship’s interior as it deals with ‘unknowns’ presented by the damage.
“The myriad of people standing here with me today, we’ve all been here from the start, and we’ll be here at the end,” the commander said. “So, as has been noted and stated many times, failure is not an option. We are here to save the Sullivans.
Captain McKinstry said the divers were extracting the ‘product’ from the vessel and putting it in an outside tank for disposal and the vessel was stable. He added that the “product,” or contaminants, are diesel and hydraulic fluid.
“Buffalo sometimes has weather anomalies called seiches that come in and out,” he said. “The boat as it is is stable. He’s not moving. What you see is the water going up and down.
Officials have been meeting three times a day since Thursday to assess the situation in order to come up with the best plan of attack. On Saturday, Marzello said he changed course during his morning briefing to remove fuel and hydraulic fluid from the ship before it could contaminate the water.
“We pump all contaminants out of the ship, before pumping water with contaminants in it, but now we are very careful.”
As for scheduled maintenance on the ship which was due to begin on Monday, Marzello said it will be delayed. Their main concern is to right the ship and ensure the safety of first responders. He said, however, that the Smithsonian had contacted the Naval Park to replace anything that may have been lost in the damage, as photos and artifacts were on board.
Mayor Brown said this process would be intense, collaborative and costly, but said they would do everything in their power to save the Sullivans.
“We will continue to work in a unified and collective manner to save this important piece of our American naval heritage,” Mayor Brown said after thanking the community and country for the outpouring of support.
The full press conference can be seen below.
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