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Oil spills after barge collision on river near New Orleans

February 17, 2012|By Richard Fausset
  • The Louisiana coast was a bit less pristine Friday morning. Here, with St. Louis Cathedral in the background, light fog floats over the Mississippi River in New Orleans earlier this month.
The Louisiana coast was a bit less pristine Friday morning. Here, with St.… (Susan Poag/The Times-Picayune )

An undetermined amount of oil spilled into the Mississippi River early Friday morning near New Orleans after an oil barge collided with another vessel, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Many of the details of the accident were not available early Friday morning. Coast Guard Petty Officer Elizabeth Bordelon said that a five-mile stretch of the Mississippi about 50 miles upriver from New Orleans had been closed to river traffic as pollution investigators and other officials responded.

Bordelon told The Times that the accident occurred sometime before 2 a.m. CST. She said that the oil barge was being moved along the river by the towing vessel Clarence W. Settoon when the collision with another towing vessel occurred. That vessel, the Alygar, was pushing a crane barge.

The oil barge suffered a 10-by-5-foot gash at its waterline. As of 7:30 a.m. CST, it had been pushed up on a riverbank and was no longer leaking, Bordelon said.

The barge was carrying sweet crude oil, of which Louisiana is the nation's No. 1 producer, according to an economic study produced last year for the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Assn.

The extraction, refining and pipeline industries support 310,217 jobs in the state and generated more than $16 billion in household earnings in 2009, according to the report.

Louisiana also continues to feel the effects from the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill near the Mississippi River Delta, the largest offshore oil spill in the history of the industry.

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