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More Oil Leaks from Mississippi River Oil Spill Barge

Jul 31, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Traffic on the Mississippi River near New Orleans came to a halt again yesterday, as more oil leaked from the sunken barge responsible for last week's oil spill.  For about six hours, the Mississippi was closed to traffic, and communities downriver from the leaking barge were forced to shut off water intake valves once again.  Both the river and intakes were reopened by later afternoon, but the US Coast Guard said it could not guarantee that similar closures would not occur as the oil spill cleanup continues.

The leaking barge was involved in an oil spill that occurred early last Wednesday morning.  The barge, loaded down with more than 400,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil, was being towed by the tugboat the Mel Oliver when it collided with an oil tanker.  The barge split in half, spilling its cargo into the Mississippi River.  One week later, the barge - still holding some of the oil it was carrying - remains in the river,

According to the Coast Guard, yesterday's oil leak was the result of a three-foot drop in the river's level that allowed the barge to shift.  Unfortunately, yesterday's incident is not likely to be the last time the barge leaks toxic fuel into the river.

"These burps may happen again, "  Coast Guard Capt. Lincoln Stroh, who oversees the Port of New Orleans, told the Times-Picayune. "Only until we secure that barge and pump out or suck the fuel out of that barge will it stop."

It could be many more days before the barge is finally removed from the Mississippi.  Before that happens, the remaining oil must be removed from the vessel.  So far, divers' efforts to get that process underway have been hindered by strong currents and poor visibility.

Meanwhile, residents of several downstream communities were again worried about the safety of their drinking water.  Water intakes for New Orleans' Algiers neighborhood, as well as those for St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes were closed for several hours after the latest oil leak.  Many residents of those communities are continuing to exhibit caution, as area convenience stores continue to report brisk sales of bottled water.


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