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87 shipwrecks cited as pollution threats

The Potrero del Llano,  carrying 1.8 million gallons of oil, was sunk in 1942 by a U-boat off Florida.

Associated Press

The Potrero del Llano, carrying 1.8 million gallons of oil, was sunk in 1942 by a U-boat off Florida.

WASHINGTON — A new government report details 87 shipwrecks — most sunk during World War II decades ago — that could pollute US waters with tens of millions of gallons of oil.

Even so, the potential for pollution is less than scientists had expected. The report released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concludes ‘‘the scope of the problem is much more manageable than initially feared. . . . Our coastlines are not littered with ‘ticking time bombs.’’’

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Agency officials estimate that far less oil will leak into the ocean than the BP oil spill of 2010, which spewed roughly 200 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico alone.

‘‘That’s not a bad number in comparison to what we first thought it would be,’’ said NOAA’s Lisa Symons, who wrote the study.

There are 20,000 shipwrecked vessels that lie off the nation’s coastlines.

Most of those either finished leaking long ago, ran on coal instead of oil, are too small or aren’t near vulnerable land.

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