Mississippi River Reopens after Oil Spill

Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 04:02 PM gHale

The final 25 miles of a 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River reopened Monday after 31,500 gallons of light crude oil spilled into the river after a tank barge hit a towboat Saturday afternoon.

The Coast Guard reopened all of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, though ships and other vessels must pass slowly near the site of a weekend oil spill.

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Petty Officer Matthew Schofield said the last 25-mile stretch downriver from the accident site opened Monday afternoon. Forty miles from New Orleans toward Baton Rouge opened earlier in the day.

At last count Sunday night, the river closure affected 26 vessels — 16 waiting to go downriver and 10 waiting to go upriver.

Officials reported only a light sheen following the accident but river traffic halted to avoid contaminating passing vessels and to prevent oil from spreading downriver.

There were no injuries in Saturday afternoon’s accident involving the barge pushed by a tugboat and another tugboat near Vacherie, 47 miles west of New Orleans. The other tugboat was pushing grain barges.

Public drinking water intakes on the river ended up closed as a precaution in nearby St. Charles Parish, officials said. “The water supply in St. Charles Parish remains safe,” parish officials said in a news release Sunday afternoon.

The closure included the Port of New Orleans. However, both the Carnival Sunshine and the Norwegian Jewel cruise ships were able to leave the port Sunday to begin their scheduled cruises, said Petty Officer Craig Woerhle at the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service in New Orleans.

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