Concerns over environmental impact of Golden Ray continue 2 years after capsizing

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — Today is the two-year anniversary of the Golden Ray Cargo ship capsizing in the St. Simons Sound. The ship had 4,200 cars on board when it tipped over on its side as it left the Port of Brunswick on September 8, 2019.

As crews cut the ship into smaller pieces for removal, car parts and oil spilled into the sound.

St. Simons Island has been home to Andy Jones all his life. When the ship capsized, life on the sound as he knew it changed. Every day, he’s taken the Minorcan Mullet out on the water -- camera in hand -- documenting the progress on his YouTube channel.

”This whole project is a bit of history for the area, nothing like this has ever happened in the area,” Jones said.

Crews had already made the final cut when Action News Jax visited the site. Sections four and five remain, with several cars suspended in what’s left of the Golden Ray. The concern has been and still is the pieces of cars and charred ship that have fallen into the water, releasing fuel and oil.

”The last big oil release was from the previous cut to this, and fortunately there hasn’t been a big release from that. There is still evidence of oil from that release along the beaches,” Altamaha Riverkeeper Watershed Specialist Maggie Van Cantfort said.

Van Cantfort worries about the long-term impacts the oil will have on the environment.

But Petty Officer Michael Himes with the St. Simons Sound Incident Response says the water is fine. ”Our analysis which has collected hundreds of thousands of data points has not revealed any exceedances of state water quality standards,” Himes said.

He says Unified Command crews have recovered 2,300 gallons of oil so far.

Although crews have set up an environmental protection barrier -- a giant net under the wreckage used to catch debris -- Jones and Van Cantfort worry it will take months for crews to retrieve all the pieces.

”Hopefully we see the Sound Return to its pristine state that it was in,” Jones said. He is optimistic the sound will bounce back.

TIMELAPSE: Capsized cargo ship Golden Ray disassembled over the course of 2 years