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Boats Still Idled by Oil Spill on Mississippi; Reopening Uncertain

Jan 30, 2013
(The Canadian Press)

With more than 50 vessels idled on the water for a fourth day today, authorities said they still do not know when they will be able to reopen a 16-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that has been closed due to an oil spill.

A plan to pump oil from a leaking barge onto another barge — a process known as lightering — had been approved but it was unclear how long that would take, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally said. He said the other barge was en route.

Severe weather that was expected to sweep through the area could shut down cleanup operations for a time, prolonging the process further, authorities said.

Crews have been working around the clock to contain and remove oil since the barge, owned by Corpus Christi, Texas-based Third Coast Towing LLC, struck a railroad bridge and began leaking early Sunday. The company has refused to comment on the incident.

Lally also noted that about 7,000 gallons of crude oil were unaccounted for aboard the barge. He said it’s not clear if all of it spilled into the river or if some seeped into empty spaces inside the barge.