The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

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.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally said that on Monday afternoon, oil was "still discharging, but it is slowly discharging."

He said crews are looking for oil roughly 50 miles downriver from the site.

"It's minimal, if any, environmental impact due to the swift current" further downriver, Lally said.

He said the investigation is continuing closer to the site, but there is still no word on how much oil has leaked or how long it will take to transfer oil from the damaged barge to another barge.

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. The river was closed to traffic for 16 miles — eight miles north and eight miles south of Vicksburg.

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

He 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.

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.

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