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4:52 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

Runaway Barges Cause Oil Spill

After a week of flooding, the Mississippi is on the rise again
After a week of flooding, the Mississippi is on the rise again
Credit (UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

The Coast Guard is assessing the environmental impact of roughly 300 gallons of crude oil it says spilled into the Mississippi River after more than a dozen barges briefly broke free near Alton, Ill.

The Coast Guard says a vessel hit an area where barges are docked on the river about 1 a.m. this morning, causing 14 to break away from their moorings. Those barges then hit another barge loading crude oil, which caused the spill of about seven barrels (300gallons) worth of oil.

Coast Guard spokesman Colin Fogarty says there's no evidence any oil made its way to the river banks, but measures are being taken to locate the spill.

“At this time we have a shoreline assessment team going through the upper Mississippi area, to see if there’s been any environmental impact,” said Fogarty.

Fogarty says locating the oil is the flood-swollen river is a challenge due to the fast moving current.

“It makes it quite difficult to determine where the product will actually end up, as the river is flowing from rates of about 8-12 mph in different sections.  So this makes a shoreline assessment very difficult and very timely.”

The chain-reaction of barges bumping down the river also caused damage to dry-dock facilities downstream.

Heavy rain last month led to significant flooding on both the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

The National Weather Service says the St. Louis area will likely get another 3-4 inches of rain through Sunday.