the republic logo

Coast Guard uses flyover to help locate spilled oil in Mississippi River after collision

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

COLUMBUS, Kentucky — The U.S. Coast Guard used aerial observations of the Mississippi River on Friday to try to determine the location of more than 120,000 gallons of oil that spilled after two tow boats collided, prompting the closure of that part of the river.

More than 30 vessels were backed up along the busy waterway by midday Friday as cleanup crews tried to locate the clarified slurry oil that leaked into the river. A flyover of the area was meant to help determine the extent of the cleanup.

"We're doing the overflights to get a better idea of where most of that oil is to see what we can recover, if anything," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash.

The collision Wednesday evening near Columbus, Kentucky, damaged at least one barge carrying the slurry oil. The cargo tank ruptured, causing tens of thousands of gallons of oil to spill into the river, the Coast Guard said.

No injuries were reported.

The river was closed from mile markers 939 to 922, Petty Officer Lora Ratliff said.

The barge was carrying approximately 1 million gallons, but the breach was only in one area, affecting just one of its six tanks, Ratliff said. That tank holds 250,000 gallons, and Coast Guard Lt. Takila Powell said a little more than 120,000 gallons spilled into the river.

Slurry oil is heavier than water, so it sinks below the surface, Nash said. Oil has not been seen on the shorelines, he said.

"It goes below the surface and then it tends to collect in columns just below the surface, which has made cleanup efforts difficult," he said Friday. "The overflight was to determine what pockets are recoverable, if any."

Nash said there were no reports of fish kills.

The Coast Guard said it was working with the barge owner, Inland Marine Services, and an oil spill response organization. An Inland Marine Services spokesman has not returned calls seeking comment.

Both tow boat operators had been interviewed by Coast Guard investigators and underwent drug and alcohol testing, but results weren't back yet, Powell said.

The Coast Guard determined five barges were damaged in the collision, but nothing other than the oil leaked into the river, Powell said.

The tow boats were moored on opposite sides of the river, and a long gash was apparent in the smaller vessel.

Powell said cleanup efforts had started with the barge and that crews put a boom around the ruptured cargo tank to prevent any residual oil from leaking into the river.

The collision happened in the middle of the river channel near Columbus, Kentucky, the Coast Guard said. The cause was under investigation. The closure stretched 17 miles south to the city of Hickman.

A July 2008 spill caused by a collision between a tugboat and a barge carrying oil on the Mississippi River in New Orleans sent 282,000 gallons into the water and caused the closure of the river.


Sainz reported from Memphis. Associated Press writer Stephen Lance Dennee also contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Damage on a barge is seen as it is moored along the Kentucky shore of the Mississippi River at Columbus-Belmont State Park in Columbus, Ky., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. A tow, seen in the background, traveling north on the river struck the barge as it was traveling south across the river. The Mississippi River has been closed to barge traffic because the damaged barge leaked clarified slurry oil. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)
Damage on a barge is seen as it is moored along the Kentucky shore of the Mississippi River at Columbus-Belmont State Park in Columbus, Ky., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. A tow, seen in the background, traveling north on the river struck the barge as it was traveling south across the river. The Mississippi River has been closed to barge traffic because the damaged barge leaked clarified slurry oil. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson Lt. Takila Powell from the Marin Safety Unit in Paducah, Ky., speaks about a barge collision at the Incedent Command Center at the Jullian Carroll Convention Center in Paducah, Ky., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. A tow traveling north on the river struck another tow as it was traveling south across the river. The Mississippi River has been closed to barge traffic because the damaged barge leaked 120,000 gallons of clarified slurry oil. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)
Click to view (5 Photos)

All content copyright ©2015 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.