Coast Guard Approves Plan for Mississippi River Pollution Incident Response

OSCEOLA, Ark. — A plan to off-load the remaining acrylonitrile from a barge involved in a collision incident and to resume the transit of commercial traffic on the Mississippi River was approved by the Coast Guard, Tuesday.

The receiver barge Kirby-11023 was brought to the scene at approximately 9:15 p.m. for lightering operations, which will begin sometime after daylight, Wednesday. Another barge has begun removing the remaining acrylonitrile from the damaged tank.

The Captain of the Port for the Lower Mississippi River also approved a plan to allow commercial traffic heading southbound on the Mississippi River near mile marker 775.5, one mile north of the Hatchie River inlet, to transit.

After vessels heading southbound have been cleared, vessels northbound will be allowed to transit.

Currently, there are approximately 39 vessels waiting to transit the area.

A safety zone has been established from mile marker 774 to mile marker 776 along the Hatchie River inlet. Vessels are not allowed to pass or overtake other vessels while in the safety zone.

At approximately 9 p.m., Monday, watchstanders at Sector Lower Mississippi River received notification from the master of the Merrick Jones, a 128-foot towing vessel pushing 26 barges, reporting that a collision had occurred involving the Merrick Jones and the Dixie Express, an 87-foot towing vessel pushing two barges of acrylonitrile. A marine and pollution investigating team from Sector Lower Mississippi River was dispatched to assess the incident.

An unknown amount of acrylonitrile was released into the water after one of the barges being pushed by the Dixie Express was damaged in the incident. Additionally, three crewmembers aboard the Dixie Express were picked up by the Henry Soudelier, another towing vessel in the area, and were taken to Methodist North Hospital in Memphis by EMS.

The source of the spill has been secured.

A total loss of approximately 600 barrels of acrylonitrile caused the closure of the Mississippi River to commercial and recreational traffic.

Cleanup responders from HEPCO, U.S. Environmental and the Tipton County Sheriff’s Department, including the Covington Fire Department are assisting in the response.

The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the incident.

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