Cleaning SF Bay from the bottom up

At any given moment, under the surface of SF Bay, local divers are working on the bay floor to clean up abandoned shipwrecks and oil spills, or completing construction projects.

Next time you drive across the Bay Bridge you can thank Global Diving & Salvage, who helped build the underwater foundation. Global, a Seattle-based company whose Bay Area division is headquartered in Richmond, specializes in underwater construction and diving services.

Frank Immel, Global’s marketing manager, likes to think that his crew is just like any other construction workers, they just wear different outfits to work and work below the water instead of above.

The crew is made up of five full-time employees in Richmond and 15 out of Rio Vista who are on call 24 hours a day and don’t leave until the job is finished.

You may remember when the COSCO Busan container ship hit the Bay Bridge in 2007 and created a massive oil spill. While over 53, 500 gallons of fuel was spewing into the Bay, Immel’s team was right there cleaning it up.

Last year, the company teamed up with the US Coast Guard to check for oil leaking from the S.S. Montebello, a World War II tanker that was transporting 3.2 million gallons of crude oil when it was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in 1941.

In order to reach the boat, which is now resting 900 feet below the ocean surface off the coast of Cambria, the crew had to use a remote operating vehicle in order to confirm there was no longer any oil on board. Immel told Richmond Confidential:

“Our work trying to ID the presence of that oil at that depth with the technology we incorporated had never been done before.”

Check out a video of the project here.

The process is quite rigorous for some construction projects and the murky waters of SF Bay don’t help. Global workers often have to work 12-hour shifts for 30 days at a time while living in a pressurized environment on the water’s surface until the project is completed.

If you fancy taking on this adventurous occupation and can work the occasional 30-day work week, you can expect a decent sized paycheck. The union pay scale for commercial divers is $76 an hour, with a benefit package of $26 an hour, according to Kevin Pehle, a former diver who is now Global’s California general manager.