River closed at New Orleans after barge spills oil

Associated Press Updated: February 24, 2014 at 7:17 am • Published: February 24, 2014 0

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River remained closed at New Orleans on Monday following a weekend collision that resulted in crude oil spilling from a barge.

Authorities involved in the cleanup and investigation planned a Monday morning conference call as they worked on estimates of how much oil spilled and when the river would re-open, a Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer Bill Colclough, said.

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 was halted to avoid contaminating passing vessels and to prevent oil from spreading downriver.

No injuries were reported in Saturday afternoon's accident involving the barge being 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 were 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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