Like a long-running horror movie in which the monster never dies, the capsized ship Golden Ray keeps despoiling St. Simons Island.
In the latest attack, a massive oil spill from the Korean cargo ship ruined marshland and beaches on Georgia's coastal jewel.
Environmental workers have collected and bagged 35,000 pounds of oil-soaked sand, according to local reports. Volunteers and state officials are trying to soak up the oil with sphagnum moss and chemicals. The cleanup is expected to last for days, unless another spill occurs.
Saturday's oil leak came after the separation of the sixth of eight sections of the ship, which capsized in September 2019 in St. Simons Sound after leaving the port of Brunswick laden with 4,200 new cars.
At high tide Saturday, the oil escaped beneath a protective barrier surrounding the ship. The failure to prevent such a disaster is puzzling and disturbing.
Hampered by Covid and a fire aboard ship, the U.S. Coast Guard, Georgia Environmental Protection Division and Gallagher Marine Systems have been working to dismantle and remove the 650-foot long ship.
Environmental groups have been monitoring the removal. Sections of the unsalvageable ship are being sent to a Louisiana landfill.
Much of the oil on the ship had been removed before Saturday's spill, but as much as 44,000 gallons were estimated to have remained. Several other oil spills have occurred during the ship’s removal, but Saturday's was reportedly the worst.
The oil spill is sickening for Georgians for whom St. Simons is a beloved vacation spot and favorite place for second homes and retirement.
While distressing, the long delay in removing the ship and the inability to prevent environmental catastrophes have shown the importance of local news.
The severely decimated Brunswick News and the new online venture the Current, staffed with several former AJC stalwarts, have been steadfast in reporting on the disaster, which has belatedly received The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's attention. Alas, the local coverage has not prevented the series of debacles.
After pulling back from Georgia coverage for years, the AJC has renewed its commitment to state news.
Recently installed political columnist Patricia Murphy has traveled around the state to talk to local officials and voters, although the series has been disappointingly superficial.
The AJC has also entered into a partnership with the Savannah Morning News to provide coastal coverage, so far emphasizing cultural features and human interest stories more than "hard news."
The Golden Ray disaster deserves an extensive examination from the state's major newspaper. A coastal jewel beloved by Atlantans is threatened by economic and environmental devastation if more oil escapes from the hulking ship. Oil also reached nearby Jekyll Island.
Along with the AJC, major newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post should step up reporting on what’s turning into a major national environmental disaster.
The federal government should also boost efforts to remove the ship as soon as possible, and prevent any further oil spills.