2 barges collide on Miss. River, spilling oil

February 17, 2012 - 1:55 PM

LAPLACE, La. (AP) — An oil tanker barge collided with another barge Friday on the Mississippi, spilling oil and leading officials to close a five-mile stretch of the river, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Officials said the collision happened around 2 a.m. about 50 miles upriver from New Orleans. The wreck tore a gash into the double-hulled tank of the tanker barge, which was being pushed by a tugboat.

The collision tore a 10-foot by 5-foot gash above the waterline of the double-hulled tanker barge and oil spewed into the river, the Coast Guard said.

Neither vessel sank and no one was hurt, Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said. He said the leak has been contained.

The tank contained about 148,000 gallons of oil, but the spill was substantially less than the tank's contents, the Coast Guard said.

A cleanup company has been hired to deal with the spill.

St. Charles Parish shut down both of its water intakes from the river, though officials said there is no threat to the public.

The section of river where the crash occurred is part of a busy shipping and industrial corridor that stretches from New Orleans north to Baton Rouge. It is lined by refineries, chemical plants and the massive Port of South Louisiana, which handles much of the grain exported from farms in the U.S. heartland.

Their operations did not appear to be seriously hampered by the closing of the river. However, the Coast Guard did not know Friday how long the river might be closed while the investigation and clean-up continue.