Crews to begin hunt for leak near sunken barge in Lake Erie

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Crews to begin hunt for leak near sunken barge in Lake Erie.

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 Lt. 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. The Coast Guard is warning boaters to stay away from the area, which is about two miles south of the Canadian border, because it could be dangerous to breathe in the fumes from the solvent. Early this decade, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration listed it among 89 shipwrecks believed to pose a significant environmental threat to United States waters due to their cargoes or fueling systems. Divers with the Cleveland Underwater Explorers first noticed the leak on Friday, and a check using a Coast Guard helicopter confirmed there was an area of discoloration in the water on Saturday that was the length of about four football fields.

Kowalczk said, adding that there had been occasional reports over the years of boaters smelling a similar odor in that area, but nothing was ever documented or confirmed. 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. The barge’s measurements match Argo’s dimensions as listed in historical records and there are no reports of another tanker barge being lost in the same area, he said. The Argo’s exact whereabouts have been unknown since waves toppled it during a storm in 1937 in western Lake Erie — about midway between Toledo and Cleveland.

Shipwreck researcher Jim Paskert said the Argo, built in 1911, was not designed to travel on open water and was operating illegally when it sunk. “The barge had no business being on the Great Lakes,” he said.

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