Towboat Sinks, Spills Oil Into Mississippi River; Crew Safe

Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013 01:58 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Cleanup efforts are continuing after a towboat sank Monday afternoon and spilled oil into the Mississippi River near the Quad Cities, Iowa, community of LeClaire.

The U.S. Coast Guard shut down traffic along a portion of the busy waterway after the towboat, which had roughly 100,000 gallons of petroleum on board, sank. Authorities said they did not know how much of the petroleum spilled into the river.

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"The Coast Guard and our partner agencies are rapidly assessing and responding to the evolving situation," Capt. Byron Black, commander with the Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River, told The Associated Press. "Our primary concern is to ensure the safety of people, the environment and the waterway."

The towboat Stephen L. Colby hit a submerged object Monday afternoon, causing it to sink, wrote the AP. The Coast Guard said in a news release that the nine members on the Colby made it off safely.

LeClaire Police Chief Shane Themas told WQAD-TV that the crews could smell a probable fuel leak in the water, but could not see where the discharge was coming from because of darkness.

"We can't determine how much, if any, is leaking at this point, but we’re taking the precautions," Themas told the television station. "We can smell fuel, so we’re going to go ahead and deploy the booms to contain it if it were to leak or start to leak as more water enters the vessel."

WQAD-TV stated that the Marquette Transportation Company, which owns the Stephen L. Colby, said a salvage rig will arrive sometime Thursday to remove the boat from the LeClaire shoreline.

A spokesperson for American Water in Davenport, Iowa, told WQAD-TV that it is drawing water through a lower-level intake in the seawall as a precaution.

"We want to stress to our customers that their drinking water continues to meet all standards for safety," Iowa American Water president Randy Moore said later on Monday. "We are monitoring the situation carefully and will take any additional measures required to assure our customers the reliable, high quality water service they expect and deserve from us."

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