Environmental Issues Final Term Paper Mississippi River Oil Spill

Environmental Issues Final Term Paper Mississippi River Oil Spill

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Mississippi River Oil Spill Gaurav Singh Environmental Issues Term Project Professor Frank Gallagher April 28, 2009
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Methodology: Extensive research of the media coverage associated with the Mississippi River oil spill provided me with valuable insight needed for this report. I also gained much information through several interviews conducted via telephone. Additionally, an on- site visit to the American Commercial Lines headquarters in Jeffersonville, Indiana gave me the necessary background information to validate some of the media reports, and made it easier to understand the events that had unfolded. Special thanks to Bill Foster, Director of Barge Maintenance at ACL, for sharing his in-depth knowledge of the events that transpired and also for some of the photographs attached to this documentary. 2
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At approximately 1:30 AM CDT on July 23, 2008, a collision occurred on the Mississippi River, involving a towboat (Mel Oliver) pushing a 61-foot American Commercial Lines (ACL) tank barge, and the 600-foot chemical tanker Tintomara. Witnesses recalled that the vessel’s emergency whistles were already sounding before they could call the ship’s superior officers to warn them, indicating that the ship commanders had spotted a problem. The collision caused 419,286 gallons of #6 oil to be spilled into the River. This #6 oil is a commercial fuel oil that is lighter than regular crude oil and dissipates more quickly. The Coast Guard confirmed that none of the tug’s crew had the licenses that are required to operate on the river. Nothing leaked from the Tintomara, which was carrying 1.3 million gallons of styrene and 4.2 million gallons of biodiesel. A sheen spread down the river, but officials reported that environmental impact was limited. Air quality readings in the vicinity were not beyond limits, and no wildlife impacts were reported. Drinking water intake from the river was diverted or closed in the area and citizens were asked to conserve water use to maximize supplies, awaiting resumption of water treatment operations. DRD Towing, who operated the towboat, was an independent, locally owned company that provided ACL and other barge lines with towing and shifting services. Because an outside party operated the towboat, ACL was not accountable for the accident, but did take on the responsibility for the cleanup efforts. There was considerable damage to the barge; the stern continued to sink at a rapid rate while the bow stayed afloat. The tank barge had just been fully loaded at a terminal in New Orleans Harbor with ten thousand barrels of #6 fuel oil, also known as heavy fuel oil. At 3
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1:32 AM, an ACL qualified individual received notice of the collision from the oil terminal operator. Minutes after the notice, ACL activated their Vessel Response Plan (VRP). They also activated their Oil Spill Response Organization in Belle Chase, and local assist boats were directed to the accident scene. Plans were initiated to fly the ACL leadership team to New Orleans. The Incident Command Center was set up at ACL headquarters at 2:30 AM, and three hours later, the booms were deployed.
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