LAPLACE, La. The Coast Guard has closed a five-mile stretch of the Mississippi River upriver from New Orleans after oil spilled from a barge following an early morning collision.
Officials say a tanker barge pushed downriver by the towboat Clarence Settoon rammed a crane barge being pushed upriver by the tugboat Alydar about 2 a.m. on Friday about 50 miles upriver from New Orleans.
The collision tore a 10-foot by 5-foot gash above the waterline of the double-hulled tanker barge and oil spewed into the river, the Coast Guard said.
Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said no injuries were reported and neither barge nor tugboat sank.
He said the leak has been contained, and authorities are working to determine how much oil spilled. The tank contained about 148,000 gallons of oil, but the spill was substantially less than the tank’s contents, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard says the Clarence Settoon deployed 100 feet of containment boom soon after the collision, and another 30,000 feet was available if needed. A cleanup company has been hired to take further steps to deal with the spill.
St. Charles Parish authorities downriver from the crash closed intakes that draw water for drinking from the river, but said an adequate supply is on hand until water quality can be checked. They described the move as precautionary and said there appeared to be no public danger from the spill.
The section of river where the crash occurred is part of a busy shipping and industrial corridor that stretches from New Orleans north to Baton Rouge. It is lined by refineries, chemical plants and the massive Port of South Louisiana, which handles much of the grain exported from farms in the U.S. heartland.
Their operations did not appear to be seriously hampered by the closing of the river. However, the Coast Guard did not know Friday how long the river might be closed while the investigation and clean-up continue.