Salvage of Mississippi River Oil Spill Barge to Start Tomorrow

Crews will begin the process to remove the sunken barge from the Mississippi River that was responsible for the worst New Orleans <"">oil spill in a decade.  It will likely take days to remove remaining oil from the barge before it can be lifted to the surface.

The sunken barge was involved in an oil spill that occurred early last Wednesday morning.  The barge, loaded down with more than 400,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil, was being towed by the tugboat the Mel Oliver when it collided with an oil tanker.  The barge split in half, spilling its cargo into the Mississippi River.

On Wednesday, more oil leaked from the barge, closing the Mississippi River for six hours.  The removal process will  jostle the barge, so additional leaks are likely.

On Saturday divers will begin tapping into fuel tanks on the barge to remove any remaining oil.  Of the three original tanks holding oil, two were significantly ruptured. The Coast Guard still does not know whether a third tank has been leaking oil or remains intact.

Until the divers pump out the barge’s remaining oil, no one will know how much fuel the oil spill actually released into the Mississippi River.

The investigation into the oil spill continues.   Shortly after the spill, it was learned that the pilot of the Mel Oliver was not properly licensed to operate a tugboat.  The company that owns the tugboat, DRD Towing of Harvey, Louisiana, failed a safety audit in May, and was facing probation or revocation from the American Waterways Organization, a national trade association for the tugboat, towboat and barge industry.

American Commercial Lines, the owner of the barge, has taken responsibility for the cost of the oil spill cleanup.  However, that company has denied responsibility for the collision that caused spill, because it was not the operator of the tugboat or the other ship involved.

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