Sunk Ship's Oil Spill Worries - NBC Bay Area

Sunk Ship's Oil Spill Worries

WWII tanker may still pose an environmental threat



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    It looks like there will be no easy answers to a sinking problem that goes back nearly 60 years.

    A tanker ship torpedoed by a Japanese submarine during World War II near California's scenic Central Coast may still represent a danger to the environment.  But the exact nature of the danger won't be known until more research can be done.

     The 440-foot ship has been lying under 900 feet of water, four miles from the coast, since Dec. 1941. Now, scientists are trying to determine if the 3.5 million gallons of crude oil on board the Montebello are still in its hold.

     Researchers are worried that if ship deteriorates, it could release its oil.

    This month, a submersible robot from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute reached the wreck to determine whether there is still oil aboard, and if so, whether it could rise to the surface.

     Researchers studying sonar images of the rusting hulk say answering those questions will be a slow process requiring more dives.