Coast Guard investigating oil leak from 1937 sinking

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

1937 shipwreck appears to be leaking oil in Lake Erie, near Canada/U.S. border.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The U.S. The Coast Guard is warning boaters to stay away from the area, which is about 3.5 kilometres south of the Canadian border, because it could be dangerous to breathe in the fumes from the solvent. (U.S.TOLEDO, Ohio — Underwater contractors are being sent to Lake Erie to search for the source of what appears to be a petroleum leak coming from a century-old sunken barge recently found in the water near the U.S.

-Canadian border may be the remains of a vessel loaded with oil or some type of solvent when it sank nearly 80 years ago and now is on a federal list of wrecks that could pose a pollution threat, shipwreck hunters said Saturday. Divers plan to explore the wreckage on Monday to see if they can find and seal the leak, which appears to involve a colorless, petroleum-based solvent that evaporates quickly once it reaches the surface, said Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Anthony Migliorini. It would be a significant discovery if the vessel turns out to be the Argo, one of 87 shipwrecks on the federal registry created two years ago to identify the most serious pollution threats to U.S. waters.

Coast Guard said it is investigating a small leak spotted near the wreckage just in the last few days, although it’s not clear whether it’s an ongoing leak or what kind of substance might be coming from the barge. “We’re fairly certain there’s a leak,” said Cmdr. Shipwreck hunters think the leaking solvent is from a tanker barge that went down between Ohio’s Kelleys Island and Ontario’s Pelee Island during a storm in 1937. The Argo, discovered by a shipwreck hunter in August, may be leaking something described by divers as having a “strong solvent odor.” The wreck is 44 feet down and about 8 miles east of Kelley’s Island, near the U.S. and Canadian border. While the barge’s identity hasn’t been confirmed, researchers with the Cleveland Underwater Explorers are virtually certain it is the Argo, said Christopher Gillcrist, executive director of the National Museum of the Great Lakes. Divers took measurements on Friday that matched the Argo’s dimensions listed in historical records after an earlier evaluation of the wreckage raised questions about its identity, Gillcrist said.

The Argo sank intact carrying more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil and benzol, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Shipwreck hunter Tom Kowalczk, who lives along the lake, discovered the barge in late August while he was searching for a wooden schooner that sunk in 1845. Flyovers on Sunday did not show any presence of water discoloration and speculation is the wreck may be intermediately burping petroleum based on changes in water and air temperature and pressure. A search-and-rescue mission was launched after the vessel made a mayday call shortly before 4 p.m. local time, B.C.’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said.

The company operates several types of boats, including zodiac-style rigid-hulled inflatable boats and larger 65-foot cruisers, according to its website. Based on NOAA modeling of winds and currents, “we don’t expect any of it to reach water intakes or the shoreline,” said Junod. “It evaporates very quickly.” Until the air around the wreck can be properly assessed, “we don’t know if there’s a need for respirators” or other safe breathing equipment on site, he said.

Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are being deployed to investigate the sinking of vessel, which the agency identified as Leviathan II. A boat carrying 27 people sank off the coast of Tofino, B.C., with one witness posting this photo of the scene on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. (Albert Titian / Facebook) According to NOAA, locals have reportedly known of the wreck’s leakage for years and Coast Guard flights over the area as recently as 2012 have noted sheens on the lake surface that weren’t attributable to a contemporary source.

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