Unified Command: Weekend Collision Spilled 31,500 Gallons of Light Crude Into Mississippi River

Image (c) Marine Traffic/Rob Heffner
Image (c) Marine Traffic/Rob Heffner

Cleanup crews are continuing to respond to an oil spill on the lower Mississippi River that over the weekend caused the closure of a 65 mile stretch of the busy waterway and apparently threatened a nearby water intake facility.

As gCaptain report previously, the U.S. Coast Guard received a report at approximately 3:30 p.m. Saturday that a tank barge was damaged in a collision with another vessel at mile marker 154 near Vacherie, resulting in the release of an unspecified amount of light crude oil into the Mississippi River.

An update Monday from the Unified Command set up in response incident now calculates that approximately 31,500 gallons of light crude oil was discharged into the river from the E2MS 303 tank barge after it collided with the MV Lindsay Ann Erickson, a 168-foot towing vessel belonging to Marquette Transportation, which was pushing grain barges at the time. The E2MS 303 is a 30,000 barrel, double-hulled transport barge owned by Settoon Towing and was reportedly being pushed by the Hannah C. Settoon.

An earlier update said that lightering operations on the damaged barge concluded Sunday morning and the source of the spill was secured.

The lower Mississippi River was reopened early Monday with conditions from mile marker 90 to mile marker 130, but remains closed from mile marker 130 to 155 with 29 vessels waiting to transit the river, the Unified Command said. The river had been previously been closed from mile marker 90 to 155 and included the Port of New Orleans.

An update said that Mississippi River has reopened with restrictions as of approximately 1:30 p.m., Monday.

Response crews with Environmental Safety & Health, an oil spill response organization, have deployed containment boom to protect the water intakes for three parishes in the affected area as a precautionary measure to prevent contamination. As of Monday, there are no reports of contamination to drinking water.

The Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health is also conducting air monitoring for air pollution threats, but so far no exposure concerns to the public have been detected. There are also no reports of oiled wildlife.

“Our highest priorities in this response are the safety of the public and responders, and protection of the environment,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Rebecca Ore, E2MS 303 Incident Commander.

The unified command consists of the Coast Guard, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, Environmental Safety & Health and Forefront Emergency Management. Also responding are representatives from Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and with participation from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness along with St James and St John the Baptist parishes.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.