A 65-mile section of the Mississippi River has been closed off from maritime traffic after a barge carrying light crude oil collided with a towboat spilling oil into the river and nearby riverbanks. The U.S. Coast Guard is working to section off the oil spill to prevent it from spreading further down the river. Nobody was injured in the collision.
Early Saturday afternoon, a boat carrying light crude oil was one of two barges that was being pushed by the Hannah C. Settoon, a tugboat stationed in the New Orleans harbor. The boat then struck the Lindsay Ann Erickson, another tugboat that is stationed in the nearby New Orleans Harbor. The collision, which happened near mile marker 153, damaged the fuel-carrying barge which consequently released the light crude oil into the river. Although there has been no official figure on how much oil was spilled into the river, the Coast Guard is working alongside the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s office in order to cordon off the area to contain the oil.
The area has been blocked to all ships and other maritime traffic. Although the section where the collision took place is rather wide, the Coast Guard does not want any vehicles to disrupt the oil that has since been contained. Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough commented in a statement that “No one was hurt and all barges were secured.” As of Sunday afternoon, 16 boats were waiting to go downriver, while 10 boats were waiting to go up river. Colclough gave no estimate about when the river would reopen for traffic.
City officials have shut off the public water intake valves, which are located on the river, as a temporary health and safety precaution. In a news release, news officials explained that despite their precautionary measures the water supply in the nearby area still “remains safe.”
The Mississippi River and nearby area are not unfamiliar to boat collisions and oil spills. Last month a barge crashed at “one of the two most difficult turns in the Mississippi River.” The barge, which was also carrying oil spilled over 10,000 gallons of its 600,000 gallons of crude oil. That spill affected the nearby riverbeds and levees, leaving a “long-term impact” in the sediment.
The 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the largest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which took a serious toll on the Mississippi River and on the lives of the surrounding towns and their people. The 4.9 million barrels of fuel, or 210 million U.S. gallons, that were spilled from the damaged well claimed 11 lives and permanently affected the region ecologically and economically. The oil had a drastic impact on the ocean floor, the nearby coral reef, and will affect organisms in the gulf and Mississippi Delta “for generations.”
The Mississippi River collision on Sunday and the resulting oil spill seem minor in the face of the 2010 BP oil spill, however, all the proper precautions and procedures are taking place to minimize the leakage of oil into the nearby area.
By Tyler Shibata