Coast Guard Continues Investigation of Wellhead Collision

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Coast Guard is continuing to investigate the cause of an allision between a dredge vessel and a wellhead in the Barataria Waterway which occurred at approximately 1 a.m., Tuesday. The dredge barge Captain Buford Berry, which was being pushed by the tug vessel Pere Ana C, allided with the wellhead while transiting in the Barataria Waterway. The barge was en route to the company’s facility in Berwick Bay when the incident occurred.

A Unified Command Post has been established at U.S. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans. Capt John Arenstam is the U.S. Coast Guard Federal On Scene Coordinator and Mr. Roland Guidry, of the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office (LOSCO), is the State On Scene Coordinator. Other participating agencies working in close coordination with the state and federal coordinators include Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LAWLF), and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO).

The wellhead is classified orphaned by LDNR, and it was determined that the last owner on record was CYDECO. The wellhead is emanating a mixture of oil, natural gas, and water into Barataria Bay. Under authority provided by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Arenstam, as the FOSC, issued an administrative order to CYDECO. The administrative order directs the company to stop the well from discharging oil and gas. The sheen is covering more than six-square miles. Wild Well Control has been hired to secure the source at the wellhead and Environmental Safety and Health (ES&H) has been contracted for containment and cleanup.

The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund has been enacted to provide monetary support for any clean-up operations. Approximately 10,500 feet of containment boom and 3,000 feet of sorbent boom have been deployed. Additionally, over 150 response personnel and 31 boats have responded to the incident.

“Our priorities remain securing the source and containing and recovering the oil,” said Arenstam. “We are concerned about the safety of personnel, transiting vessels, and the environment. Therefore, marine traffic has been restricted by a two-mile safety zone established around the wellhead. This was put in place to prevent a possible ignition of the gas.”

With the safety zone in place, vessels are allowed to transit through the area with USCG approval. There are USCG/LAWLF/JPSO enforcement vessels on scene to work with USCG Sector New Orleans to coordinate approval requests.

“Through the continued efforts of local, state, and federal partners, we are working to ensure a quick, safe and effective response to this situation. It is imperative that we maximize safety of responders and transiting vessels while minimizing any further impact to the environment,” Arenstam added.

The cause of the allision remains under investigation.

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