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Buffalo Naval Park: Refloat operation for USS The Sullivans continues

U.S. Coast Guard Buffalo Sector Captain Lexia Littlejohn says the emergency refloat operation is going well, adding that the list of the ship has improved.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Officials from the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park gathered Friday morning to provide an update about the continued effort to save USS The Sullivans.

Sixteen days ago the hull of The Sullivans was breached and the historic World War II ship started taking on water. The Sullivans could be seen listing on the shore of Lake Erie. The dramatic scene has caused onlookers to flock down to the waterfront to get a look.

Coast Guard Buffalo Sector Captain Lexia Littlejohn says at this time the emergency refloat operation is going well, adding that the list of the ship has significantly improved. According to Littlejohn, a number of holes have been plugged; however, work is far from over.

"Thirty-three holes were plugged, with wooden plugs. A number of additional holes were repaired with Marine-grade epoxy. That has enabled us to be able to conduct the re-float operation," she said.

Littlejohn says T&T Salvage prepared a plan for the refloat operation, which has since been reviewed and approved by the Salvage Emergency Response Team from the Coast Guard. The plan consists of coordinated actions between crews and pumping actions to help raise and refloat the ship.

"Those pumps on board, there are 22 on board, they have a total pumping capacity of about seven-thousand gallons. We're not using all of those pumps at once. They're being operated in a step-wise fashion to conduct the refloat operation in a safe and effective manner. So that plan is going very well," said Littlejohn.

As progress continues to be made, Littlejohn says a diver discovered another hole as the stern as the ship was raised. This new hole is currently being evaluated.

"From a pollution response perspective, we have not seen any additional oil escape containment," Littlejohn said. "We have not seen any additional oil come from the ship as a result of the refloat operations. We are still conducting air monitoring within the ship; all of the readings for the toxic gases that we test for have been zero. We are very confident that there is no danger to the public from that."

Paul Marzello, president and CEO of the Buffalo Naval Park, says he doesn't believe the 78-year-old Fletcher-class destroyer has sustained any permanent damage, adding that work will eventually resume to repair the hull of the ship.

"We still have a job to do and BIDCO [BIDCO Marine Group] is going to back on the job as soon as we get the OK from T&T and the Coast Guard and environmental, they'll be back repairing the hull," Marzello said.

He added, "We are totally confident that BIDCO can complete the job and make the repairs necessary that we expected."

He said that Friday was a very meaningful and poignant time for everyone as the refloating operation worked out.

"It's the first time in 16 days that you've seen a lot of smiles starting to be cracked around this whole situation, and I am delighted to say that you're going to see some marked improvements once we take you on our little field trip," said Marzello.