The board said pollutants shed by the ships into Suisun Bay include mercury, lead, hexavalent chromium, PCBs and asbestos.
The historic but toxic skeleton crew of ships in Suisun Bay known as the Ghost Fleet or Mothball Fleet will be gone by 2017.
Details of an agreement between The U.S. Maritime Administration, state clean water regulators and environmentalists to remove the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet were announced Wednesday.
Under the plan, hazardous material will be removed from the 52 ghost ships in four months and paint chipping off the ships will be cleaned within two years.
Twenty of the ships in the worst condition headed for disposal in the first round will be taken from the fleet to a dry dock in San Francisco by 2012 until they head to Texas to be recycled.
The remaining ships will be cleaned every three months to prevent any further pollution. Monthly inspections and water tests will be done on the ships that will be staying in Suisun Bay until their final ending. No more ships will be added to the fleet.
The agreement ends more than two years of legal wrangling between environmentalists and the government over maintenance and disposal of the outdated ships, which have been polluting the Suisun Bay for decades.
"What a difference an election makes," Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez said via a news release. "During the last eight years, virtually no action was taken to clean up the ships, and only a few of the decaying ships were removed - despite clear congressional direction. But today's announcement is a significant step forward. In just one year, the Obama administration has restarted a stalled process, and crafted a plan that will lead to the removal of the worst ships."
Miller, along with Rep. Ellen Tauscher, and Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have been active in trying to get the fleet removed.
A federal judge in January ruled in favor of environmentalists, saying the fleet is polluting the bay as toxic paint and other material falls from the ships.