The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 28, 2013

Barge with 80,000 gallons oil hits Miss. bridge, leaks

— A barge laden with 80,000 gallons of oil struck a railroad bridge in Vicksburg, Miss., over the weekend, spilling light crude into the Mississippi River and closing the waterway for miles each way, the Coast Guard said. A second barge was damaged.

Although an oily sheen was reported up to three miles downriver from Vicksburg, investigators were uncertain how much of the oil had spilled when the bridge was hit early Sunday, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Ryan Gomez said.

"Investigators are still trying to figure out what happened," he said by telephone from Coast Guard offices in Memphis, Tenn.

The oil sheen from Sunday's incident was unlikely to pose a threat to the Gulf of Mexico, located more than 340 river miles south of Vicksburg.

Authorities were still trying to pinpoint the leak's source, but it appeared to be coming from one or two tanks located at the stern of the first barge, Gomez added. He said there was no indication that any oil was leaking from the second vessel, and said it was still unclear whether the second barge also hit the bridge or was damaged through a collision with the first.

United States Environmental Services, a response-and-remediation company, was working to contain the oil with booms before collecting it, Gomez said.

He could not say how long the river would remain closed in the area. Five northbound and two southbound vessels were waiting to pass, he said. A message seeking a Coast Guard update early Monday was not immediately returned.

Railroad traffic was allowed to continue after the bridge was found safe for trains, Petty Officer Carlos Vega said Sunday.

The barges are owned by Third Coast Towing LLC, Gomez said. According to a website listed under that name, the company is located in Corpus Christi, Texas. No one answered the telephone at the company Sunday night.

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