A barge carrying 80,000 gallons of oil hit a railroad bridge in Vicksburg, Miss., on Sunday, spilling light crude into the Mississippi River and closing the waterway for eight miles in each direction, the Coast Guard said. A second barge was damaged.
Investigators did not know how much had spilled, but an oily sheen was reported as far as three miles downriver of Vicksburg after the 1:12 a.m. accident, said Lt. Ryan Gomez of the Coast Guard’s office in Memphis, Tenn.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the second barge also hit the bridge or if it ran into the first barge, he said. The first barge was still leaking late Sunday afternoon, and emergency workers set out booms to absorb and contain the oil, Gomez said. The river’s closure halted at least five northbound and two southbound vessels, he said.
The bridge was found safe for trains, said Petty Officer Carlos Vega
Both barges were being pushed by the tugboat Nature’s Way Endeavor. The website for Nature’s Way Marine LLC of Theodore, Ala., identifies it as a 3,000-horsepower, 90-foot long boat, making it the largest and highest-powered of the company’s five tugs. It was built in 1974 and underwent a complete rebuild in 2011, according to the company.
A company manager referred calls to the Coast Guard command center at Vicksburg.
The Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Vicksburg sent a team to assess the spill and oversee the cleanup, a Coast Guard news release said. The agency said a command center at Vicksburg included representatives from the Coast Guard and Nature’s Way, as well as local officials and law enforcement.