Environmental Issues Term Project

Environmental Issues Term Project - Mississippi River Oil...

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Mississippi River Oil Spill Gaurav Singh Environmental Issues Term Project Professor Frank Gallagher April 28, 2009
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At approximately 1:30 AM CDT on July 23, 2008, a collision occurred involving a towboat (Mel Oliver), pushing a 61-foot American Commercial Lines (ACL) tank barge and the 600-foot chemical tanker Tintomara on the Mississippi River. Witnesses recalled that the vessel’s emergency whistles were already sounding before he 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 fuel 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 operated the towboat, which 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 responsible for the accident, but did pay 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 with ten thousand barrels of #6 fuel oil, also known as heavy fuel oil at a terminal in New Orleans Harbor. At 1:32 AM, an ACL qualified individual received notice of the collision from the oil terminal operator. Minutes after the notice,
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ACL activated their Vessel Response Plan (VRP). ACL activated its 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. At 11:00 AM local time, an on-site team was set up in New Orleans to assist with the cleanup effort. Environmental officials coordinated an effort to pool the oil and prevent it from drifting farther south, where there are more levee breaks that would allow it to spill into the wetlands. After visiting the scene, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality spokesman, Rodney Mallet said, “It’s not the largest spill we’ve ever had, but it’s a large one.” The first press conference was held in conjunction with the Coast Guard at 11:30 AM. ACL’s message was that their officials are on-scene to join the Unified Command and respond to the incident.
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