The towboat Nature's Way Endeavor banks a barge against the western… (Eli Baylis / Vicksburg Post )
Oil spilled into the Mississippi River after two oil barges hit a bridge near Vicksburg, Miss., early Sunday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.
The barges, laden with crude oil, were being pulled by the tow boat Nature's Way Endeavor when they hit the Vicksburg Railroad bridge and were damaged, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a release.
One of the barges began spewing oil into the river, officials said. It was unclear how much oil was spilled. The U.S. Coast Guard said the source of the spill, a leaking tank filled with 80,000 gallons of crude oil, had been "contained."
The U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Vicksburg is in charge of the cleanup, and a stretch of the river was closed after the spill. A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard, Lt. Ryan Gomez, told the Associated Press that oil booms had been set up around the barges.
The Nature's Way Endeavor is owned by Nature’s Way Marine LLC, officials said.
Messages left with the U.S. Coast Guard and Nature's Way Marine on Sunday afternoon was not immediately returned.
The company's website says the Theodore, Ala.-based company owns five tow boats and 10 barges.
According to the business' website, the Nature's Way Endeavor is a 90-foot, 3,000-horsepower tow boat built in 1974 and completely rebuilt in 2011. It has two engines and two generators.
The National Transportation Safety Board reported that another of the company's towing vessels, the Nature's Way Commander, was pushing a hopper barge in February when it collided with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deck barge near the Port Allen Lock in Louisiana, causing more than $100,000 in damages.
The NTSB faulted the pilot of the Nature's Way Commander in that February 2012 accident.
Nature's Way was also a target in a 2010 lawsuit from a Louisiana hydroelectric company claiming that some Nature's Way barges, pulled by another company's tow boat, collided and damaged a river bank next to the company's Mississippi River location. The suit contended that the barges were "unseaworthy, in that they were leaking and would take on water." The case was settled out of court.
Nature's Way Marine was also involved in the cleanup after the 2011 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a federal lawsuit filed against BP and the company by an oil cleanup worker whose company was subcontracted by Nature's Way. The suit's plaintiff, John D. Naples, contended he was not given a mask or suit to deal with the oil, nor told to take precautions.
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