Coast Guard continues to respond to oil discharge in upper Mississippi River

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ST. LOUIS — The Coast Guard, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Services and local emergency crews continue to respond to oil discharged into the Mississippi River near LeClaire, Iowa from a partially submerged towboat.

Due to a shift in weather Wednesday night, a sizable portion of oil escaped the containment area.

The Coast Guard and partner agencies are doubling their efforts to collect the released oil.

The Coast Guard has deployed an additional 2,500 feet of boom.

Lightering operations were expected to begin Thursday afternoon.

A spud barge has been brought in to stabilize the vessel during lightering operations.

The river was reopened at 6 p.m., Tuesday.

The Coast Guard and partner agencies will be working through the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The Coast Guard is not only battling pollution, we are also battling the elements and weather,” said Lt. Colin Fogarty, incident command chief for Sector Upper Mississippi River. “The Coast Guard and our partners are taking aggressive steps to contain and collect the pollution. This is a very dynamic environment; however, we will do this operation as quickly as safety permits.”

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River received a report at approximately 4:30 p.m., Monday that the 144-foot towboat Stephen L. Colby struck a submerged object near LeClaire causing it to sink. At the time of the sinking, nine crewmembers were aboard and all were able to make it to safety.

The Captain of the Port closed the Mississippi River from mile marker 493 to mile maker 501 on the upper Mississippi River to allow for safe, effective cleanup and salvage operations. Coast Guard personnel, along with Illinois EPA and local emergency response crews, are taking action to minimize environmental damage.

Approximately 100,000 gallons of petroleum products are reported to be on board the sunken vessel.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

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