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Removal of Mississippi River Oil Spill Barge Could Begin Today

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Crews working to salvage the barge responsible for last month’s Mississippi River oil spill could have part of the sunken barge out of the river later today.  So far, the Coast Guard has been unable to estimate how much oil remained on the sunken barge, but should have a number soon. Until then, no one can know how much toxic oil might have made it into the Mississippi.

According to the Coast Guard, crews have finished draining the storage tank in the front of the ship of its oil. That should allow crews to remove the front half of the barge from the river. The Coast Guard hopes to have the stern tank pumped out soon, and the rear half of the barge may be pulled out of the river on Wednesday.

The sunken barge was involved in an oil spill that occurred the morning of July 23. 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 a tanker. The barge split in half, spilling its cargo into the Mississippi River. The river was closed to shipping for several days.

According to radio transmissions released by the Coast Guard, it is apparent that the Mel Oliver received repeated warnings from both Coast Guard personnel and the pilot of the tanker to get out of the way in the minutes leading up to the crash. Unfortunately, no one on the Mel Oliver ever responded to the warnings.

At the time of the collision, no one aboard the Mel Oliver was properly licensed to pilot a tugboat. According to the Coast Guard, the captain of the tugboat was not even aboard.

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