Mississippi River Oil Spill Temporarily Closes 65 Miles of River

Image: Mississippi River Oil Spill Temporarily Closes 65 Miles of River

Monday, 24 Feb 2014 05:05 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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An oil spill closed 65 miles of the Mississippi River near New Orleans on Saturday but the area has been reopened.

U.S. Coast Guard officials announced the closure Saturday after a barge collided with a towboat. The accident occurred about 50 miles west of New Orleans.

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A lower portion of the river was initially reopened after the light crude oil spill, but still left about 29 ships trapped, The Chicago Tribune said.

The remainder was opened Monday afternoon, according to a Coast Guard news release.

“Response crews with Environmental Safety & Health, an oil spill removal organization, has strategically deployed containment boom to protect the water intakes for three parishes in the affected area,” the news release said. “All impacted water intake facilities in the affected area are taking precautionary measures to prevent contamination.”

There have been no signs of contamination affecting area wildlife, the Coast Guard said, and also no signs of concern with regard to public exposure and air pollution.

“The majority of the oil stayed in the river itself,” Francis Hymel, assistant director of emergency preparedness in St. James, La., told the Tribune. “You hear 'oil spill' you think BP, Exxon Valdez. But this was a much smaller barge, not a spewing well. The majority of it is being carried away by the current. It’s not that sludge washing up on shore. It’s a moving target.”

Greg Langley, with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, told the Tribune that a strong current makes his department “fairly confident” the spill will dissipate.

The Tribune said there was one report of contaminated water in Gretna, but couldn’t confirm that information with calls to the town.

The Associated Press reported that this was the third accident in three years that involved a towboat owned by Settoon Towing of Louisiana.

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