A crew works on a damaged barge along the shore of the Mississippi River in Columbus, Ky.
09/03/2015 By BRUCE SCHREINER and ADRIAN SAINZ Fire Engineering
COLUMBUS, Ky. (AP) — Part of the Mississippi River was closed as crews investigated an oil spill caused by the collision of two tow boats, the U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday.
The collision Wednesday evening near Columbus, Kentucky, damaged at least one barge carrying clarified slurry oil. The cargo tank was ruptured, causing thousands of gallons of oil to spill into the river, the Coast Guard said.
No injuries were reported.
The river is closed from mile markers 938 to 922, Petty Officer Lora Ratliff said.
The barge was carrying approximately 1 million gallons, but the breach was only in one area, affecting just one of its six tanks, Ratliff said. That tank holds 250,000 gallons, and Lt. Takila Powell said a little more than 120,000 gallons spilled into the river.
The Coast Guard said it was working with the barge owner, Inland Marine Services, and an oil spill response organization. Inland Marine Services referred calls to its public relations person, Patrick Crowley, who did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
Both tow boat operators had been interviewed by Coast Guard investigators and underwent drug and alcohol testing, but results aren't back yet, Powell said.
It wasn't known how long the river would be closed.
"We are working diligently to try to restore our marine transportation system," Powell said. "We understand that it is vital."
The Coast Guard determined five barges were damaged in the collision, but nothing other than the oil leaked into the river, Powell said.....
....Some oil was recovered from the surface during cleanup operations Thursday, Powell said, but she didn't know how much.
Powell said the oil is thick and has to be heated to be transferred or moved.
"How this type of product typically would react is that when it reaches the water that is of a lower temperature, it would solidify and sink," she said Thursday. "But one of the things that we will be doing tomorrow is trying to determine where that oil has migrated to, to try to determine whether or not it has moved down the river or if it's still in the vicinity of where the collision occurred."
The collision happened in the middle of the river channel near Columbus, Kentucky, late Wednesday, the Coast Guard said. The cause was under investigation. The closure stretched 17 miles south to the city of Hickman..... more here