Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

January 28, 2013

Barge hits Miss. River bridge; Oil cleanup ongoing

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — Cleanup crews with booms skimmed oily water from the Mississippi River a day after a barge with more than 80,000 gallons of oil struck a railroad bridge near Vicksburg, spreading a sheen of light crude that kept part of the waterway shut to ship traffic Monday, authorities said.

It remained unclear Monday morning how much oil had leaked into the river, according to the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.

The spill backed up at least 24 tugboats, barges and other vessels on the normally bustling corridor, said Kavanaugh Breazeale, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg.

Breazeale said the damaged barge had eight tanks and each tank could hold 80,000 gallons of oil. He said the investigation had shown that one tank was pierced above the water line.

"It's not leaking that much oil," Breazeale said, though the exact amount was not known.

He also said it was uncertain how long the river would remain closed.

Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally said crews are working on skimming oil that is contained in the boom and that he, too, was unsure much oil had leaked.

Tugs were holding the barge near shore on the Louisiana side of the river, south of the bridge it hit and directly across from Vicksburg's Riverwalk Casino.

Orange containment boom was stretched across part of the river downstream from the barge, and a small boat appeared to patrol the area.

About 10 to 12 northbound vessels and 10 to 12 southbound vessels were waiting to pass Monday, according to Breazeale.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Ryan Gomez said investigators reported that a towboat or tug was pushing two tank barges when the collision occurred about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

The second barge was damaged, Gomez said, and authorities inspected and cleared the railroad bridge afterward.

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