By Isabel Angell / KQED News
A crew of about 50 workers painstakingly lifted a sunken tugboat out of the Oakland Estuary on Monday afternoon. The tug, nicknamed “Captain Al,” had been totally submerged in the waters between Oakland and Alameda for at least 15 years. But it was leaching lead paint into the water, so it had to come out.
It's part of a joint federal, state and local project to clean up the estuary.
“It’s one of those things that the Oakland Estuary has been known as kind of a dumping ground," said Todd Thalhamer, who's overseeing the project for CalRecycle, the state’s department for recycling and waste management. "Once you take that dumping away, that problem is going to cease.”
Once the boat is upright it will be dragged to a dock where the Environmental Protection Agency will conduct more testing for toxins like asbestos.
“If that’s all clean and good, then we’re going to take this vessel to Bay Ship and cut it up for steel and recycle it,” said Thalhamer.
At 105 feet, Captain Al is the biggest boat out of the twenty pulled out of the estuary so far. Crews will haul out another tug, called "Respect," next month.