July 24, 2008
Coast Guard extends Mississippi River closure
The Coast Guard has extended the closure of the Mississippi River from mile marker 97, one mile north of the Harvey Canal, Gretna, La., to the Gulf of Mexico, which expands an area of nearly 100 miles. Nearly 420,000 gallons of number 6 fuel oil spilled when American Commercial Lines barge DM932, which was being pushed by the DRD Towing Company, L.L.C, tug boat Mel Oliver, and the chemical tank ship, Tintomara, collided at approximately 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
More than 45,000 feet of containment boom has been deployed by contractors. Another 45,000 feet of boom was scheduled to be deployed today in the affected areas. All water intake facilities at risk have been protected by boom. Marshlands and environmentally sensitive areas have not been affected, but containment boom is being deployed.
The Coast Guard launched an HH-65C helicopter crew from Air Station New Orleans, the Coast Guard Cutter Razorbill, a 41-foot boat and a 25-foot boat from Station New Orleans, a 41-foot boat from Station Venice, and a 26-foot vessel from the Aids to Navigation Team in Venice to respond to the spill.
Currently there are approximately 60 vessels waiting to transit throughout the river. The Coast Guard says it is working as quickly as possible to safely reopen the river to vessel traffic. The New Orleans Times Picayune reports that the closure "is likely to go on for days" and quotes a Port of New Orleans official as saying he river could reopen gradually, as it did after Hurricane Katrina, The Coast Guard will probably work as fast as it can to push the oil to one side and partially reopen the river, but having only one lane open may mean travel in one direction at a time.
The investigation revealed the tug boat, Mel Oliver, reported there were no properly licensed individuals on the vessel during the time the incident occurred.
Rear Adm. Joel R. Whitehead, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, has launched a formal investigation into the incident.
The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a Go Team to investigate the incident. NTSB Marine Safety Investigator Tom Roth-Roffy has been designated as Investigator-in-Charge and is leading a team of six investigators. NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker traveled to New Orleans to serve as principal spokesman for the NTSB on-scene investigation.