NEW ORLEANS — Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received notification at 1:58 a.m. Friday of a barge collision and oil spill. A construction barge, pushed by the towboat Alydar, collided with a tank barge, towed by the motor vessel Rev. Clarence W. Settoon. The tank barge was loaded with Louisiana sweet crude oil and suffered a 10-foot by 5-foot gash above the waterline, resulting in a release of oil into the Lower Mississippi River near mile marker 139, approximately 50 miles upriver of New Orleans, Friday.
While a pollution investigation team was dispatched to assess the size of the spill, the Coast Guard captain of the port New Orleans, Capt. Pete Gautier, closed the Lower Mississippi to all traffic from mile marker 135 to mile marker 140 near LaPlace, La.
The Rev. Clarence W. Settoon is a 66’x24’x9′, 1,300-hp towboat owned by Settoon Towing out of Houma, La. The 1,500-hp Alydar is one of 15 towboats and five launch boats operated by Turn Services out of New Orleans.
By Sunday, the impacted cargo tank on the barge had been emptied and relocated, the remaining oil in the barge holding tanks removed, and the barge was relocated to a repair facility in Westwego. According to the Coast Guard, the barge was holding 3,535 bbls. of crude oil, but the amount of oil released into the Mississippi is believed to be less than 10,000 gals.
The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund has been opened and ES&H has been contracted as the oil spill response organization. A total of 101 response personnel from the Coast Guard, ES&H and OMI Environmental Services remained actively engaged in the cleanup as of Monday night.
Since operations began Friday, 100 bags of oiled debris and 40 bags of oiled sorbents have been collected, according to the Coast Guard. A total of 4,700 feet of hard containment boom has been deployed in an effort to minimize environmental damage.
The Coast Guard, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office and Settoon have established a unified command to respond to the incident.