The Port of New Orleans and surrounding areas were closed Sunday after a barge collided with a tow boat, causing oil to spill into the Mississippi River. The boats were located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans when the collision occurred, and investigators are trying to determine what happened. Luckily no one was injured and the area’s drinking water supply is safe, but officials were forced to shut down 65 miles of the Mississippi River while crews worked to clean the spill. By Sunday afternoon, a line of vessels had formed, waiting to get up and down the river while the cleanup was underway.
The barge was being pushed when it collided into a tow boat pushing another ship. Officials say that they don’t know how much oil has spilled, but the remaining oil was pumped into another barge in order to prevent further leakage. An investigation is taking place to determine who caused the accident and who will be responsible for the damage and cleanup efforts.
The coast guard noted that some of the 26 vessels waiting to move Sunday afternoon dropped anchor and settled in, while others are still idling, waiting to move like cars in a traffic jam. In order to mitigate environmental impact, crews have deployed booms to corral the oil and protect water intake valves along the river. The Coast Guard, state Department of Environmental Quality and ES&H are on the scene cleaning up, which includes both the booms and fly-overs to determine where the oil is headed so that it can be contained. No word has been released about when the waterway might reopen.