Mississippi River Oil Spill Almost 100 Miles Long, Barge Still LeakingJul 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
The slick from the oil spill that occurred Wednesday on the Mississippi River in New Orleans now spans nearly 100 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The barge involved in the spill is still leaking heavy fuel oil into the river, and officials in New Orleans have characterized the incident as the city's worst oil spill in a decade. Concerns are rising that the toxic oil could soon endanger wildlife in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge down stream.
The Mississippi River oil spill occurred when a 600-foot tanker and a barge loaded with fuel collided. The spill occurred about 1:30 a.m. central time Wednesday near the Crescent City Connection, a pair of New Orleans bridges. A smell which many people thought was diesel was noticeable in the French Quarter and parts of New Orleans’ central business district. The barge split in half, spilling more than 419,000 gallons of tar-like oil into the river. The barge’s owner, American Commercial Lines, immediately took responsibility for the oil spill.
Two days after the spill, fumes from the fuel oil can still be smelled throughout New Orleans and up and down the river. Despite the acrid odor, health officials say the fumes pose no respiratory risks to residents.
The Mississippi River is still closed to boat traffic from the Gulf to New Orleans. The Port of New Orleans is said to be loosing at least $100,000 in revenue for each day the river is shut down.
As the oil slick continues to move downstream, there is a great deal of concern about its impact on the Delta National Wildlife Refuge. According to The New York Times, tens of thousands of feet of the plastic booms had already been put in place around the refuge. Thursday. If the oil flows through the main pass, or outlet, and on into the Gulf of Mexico, the effect will be limited; but if it seeps into the secondary passes, there is a more serious risk to the environment.
There was also concern about the environmentally sensitive marshes the river empties into downstream. When it goes down to the area where there are no longer levees, it gets into the swamp,” said Wilma Subra of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network told The New York Times. “It’s going to contaminate the marsh.”
Subra told The New York Times that there have been unconfirmed reports of dead fish and birds being found downstream, as well as reports of people vomiting.
The investigation into the oil spill is ongoing. The Coast Guard has determined that no one on the tug boat pushing the leaking barge had the proper licensing for piloting a tugboat, but no blame has been assigned yet for the accident.
Officials say it could be weeks before the oil spill clean up is complete.