The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a move to remove dredge pipes that float along the Gulf’s shoreline, in a project that could cost millions of dollars.
The agency is weighing the removal of several dozen dredge pipelines that float near the shoreline of the Gulf, and some of the floats are being used to build floating pipelines that could potentially carry oil and gas to the Gulf.
The EPA is seeking public comments on the proposal, which has been under consideration for nearly three years, and is looking at the impacts on aquatic habitats, the environment and other water quality concerns, according to the EPA.
The proposed move would affect several types of floating pipeline, including the “dredgerhead” dredge that sits along the coast near New Orleans and is known for its ability to dig up sand and remove oil and other contaminants from the water.
Dredgerheads float in water from three separate aquifers in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, which have been identified as the sources of the contamination.
They can be found in the gulf, off the coast of Louisiana, off of Florida and in the Missouri River delta in South Carolina, where they are located.
The Mississippi and St. Charles Aquifers, both located about a mile (2 kilometers) apart, are the sources for the contaminants.
These two aquifer systems are also believed to be the source of the spill at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the Louisiana coast.
“The proposed actions will result in significant impacts on both the Mississippi and Missouri Aquifer Systems, including a potential reduction in the number of dredge barges operating in the region, which could impact water quality and marine life,” the EPA said in a statement.
The department also said that the removal could cost billions of dollars to clean up the water and marine habitat in the areas where the pipelines are located, which would make it harder to recover the oil and waste.
The National Marine Fisheries Service said that some of these pipelines “are the largest floating pipelines in the world,” and that it is the first time that any US agency has been asked to remove a floating pipe.
“These floating pipelines provide critical service to the region and help ensure safe and healthy fish habitat,” the agency said in the statement.
“They are essential to the health of the Mississippi River System, and their removal is necessary to protect fish and other aquatic life.”
The EPA’s proposed removal of the dredge floats is part of a $4.2 billion pipeline removal project that will require dredge work to be done by 2019.