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.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The Coast Guard says contractors will search for the source of what appears to be a petroleum leak coming from a sunken barge found recently in Lake Erie near the U.S.

But it was only on Friday, during a dive to confirm the sunken vessel’s dimensions after a Coast Guard contractor’s divers earlier last week raised doubts about its identity, that Tom Kowalczk, director of research and remote sensing for the Cleveland Underwater Explorers, noticed the intermittent appearance of small oily droplets on the water’s surface directly above the wreck. Anthony Migliorini, commander of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in Toledo, said further investigation Saturday confirmed the apparent leak, including discoloration of the water visible from an aircraft as well as “an odor of a solvent-like smell.” During the news conference today, Commander Migliorini said a 1,000-foot radius around the site has been declared “a regulatory safety zone” into which mariners are not to enter. The Argo is believed to have been carrying about 100,000 gallons each of crude light oil and benzol, a tar-like material containing benzene and toluene, when the barge became distressed during the storm and was abandoned by the tug towing it. 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 because of their cargoes or fueling systems. Five of those vessels were lost in the Great Lakes, and of them the Argo was deemed potentially most dangerous because of the size and unknown status of its cargo.

The NOAA assessment of the Argo, prepared in 2013, said its most likely position was in Canadian waters southeast of Pelee Island, but close enough to American waters that any discharge posed a hazard on both sides of that maritime border. Kowalczk to commission his own dive on Friday, and he said the results from that measurement matched, within about a foot for both length and width, the Argo’s records. “Ten to 15 seconds, and it was gone,” Mr.

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.

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