Towboat Collision Causes Oil Spill on the Mississippi

November  26, 2013

A sunken tugboat is still leaking oil into the Mississippi River at LeClaire. Yesterday afternoon around 4:30, the Coast Guard responded to help the Stephen Colby towboat, which had collided with something under water.

Lieutenant Colin Fogarty says as soon as the Coast Guard arrived, it began coordinating with the company that owns the boat, Marquette Transportation based in Paducah, Kentucky. "Divers plugged ventilation shafts and oil imports to prevent further discharge. But it's still discharging. It's very difficult to determine the source, but it's probably from the hull that may have been damaged during the collision with the submerged object."

The tugboat was carrying 100,000 gallons of fuel and oil as it travelled upstream without any barges. Fogarty says 400 gallons of oil has been recovered with booms and skimmers, but he estimates a total of 600 to 700 gallons has leaked so far. "The containment area has collected about 90% of the discharge. That being said, some escaped, so the Coast Guard is conducting harbor patrols and shoreline assessments to find where it's going, and to see if we can collect it and recover it."

Many workers are on the scene in LeClaire, including employees from the EPA and a hazardous materials team. The towboat is sitting on the bottom of the river in about 16 feet of water. Eight miles of the Upper Mississippi are closed, blocking barge traffic.


(Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty photo / November 26, 2013 )