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US Navy Settles Lawsuit, Agrees to 10-Year Moratorium on Hull Scraping in Puget Sound

© AP Photo / Elaine ThompsonThe Washington state ferry Tacoma crosses the Puget Sound in view of the Olympic mountains behind Thursday morning, Dec. 6, 2018, in Seattle.
The Washington state ferry Tacoma crosses the Puget Sound in view of the Olympic mountains behind Thursday morning, Dec. 6, 2018, in Seattle.  - Sputnik International
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The US Navy has agreed to a 10-year moratorium on scraping the hulls of decommissioned vessels in the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean in Washington state.

The deal, which was filed in the US District Court in Tacoma, Washington, on Wednesday, settles a lawsuit filed in June 2017 by the Suquamish Tribe and two nonprofit organizations: the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and the Washington Environmental Council. 

According to the lawsuit, the US Navy’s hull scraping of the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Independence at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 2017 caused paint, metals and other contaminants to be released into the Sinclair Inlet, which flows into the Puget Sound. 

The lawsuit thus alleges that the US Navy committed multiple violations of the Clean Water Act, a US federal law passed in 1972 that regulates the discharge of pollutants into the nation’s waters.

In the settlement agreement, which applies to six decommissioned ships including the former aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, the Navy agreed to no longer complete any hull cleaning in the Sinclair Inlet “except to the extent it is required for hull integrity tests or to prepare the vessel to be put into dry-dock,” the Associated Press reported.

The Navy also agreed to place a 10-centimeter-thick layer of clean sand over the area where the USS Independence was scrubbed by 2022. Sand filters are used to produce high-quality water. When water passes through the slow sand filter, various pathogens are filtered out through several biological mechanisms.

The settlement also notes that Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and the state of Washington reserve the right to seek legal fees from the Navy, the Associated Press reported.

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