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The Oils of War

Fuel and toxic chemicals are still leaking from ships sunk in the Pacific in WWII.

By Josie Glausiusz
Mar 1, 2003 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 5:52 AM


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Micronesians, Melanesians, and Polynesians are still paying for battles fought in their backyard during World War II. Researchers at the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme in Samoa report that fuel and toxic chemicals are still leaking from the more than 1,000 military and cargo vessels from Japan and the United States that sank in this region between 1941 and 1945.

Two summers ago a tropical storm rocked the USS Mississinewa—an oil tanker torpedoed near Micronesia's Ulithi Atoll—spilling 24,000 gallons of fuel and halting local subsistence fishing. Officials in the area report other fish kills and oil deposits washing up onshore.

A cleanup will most likely require international assistance. Siphoning off the oil from the USS Mississinewa alone would cost up to $6 million, says Sefanaia Nawadra of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

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