Coast Guard investigating unknown substance near Kelley’s Island Shoal in Lake Erie

Contractors conduct dive operations at the site of a sunken barge near the Kelley's Island Shoal in Lake Erie, Oct. 21, 2015. The divers were trying to establish the identity of the barge and if it or any of its cargo poses an environmental threat. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station Marblehead)

Contractors conduct dive operations at the site of a sunken barge near the Kelley’s Island Shoal in Lake Erie, Oct. 21, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station Marblehead)

CLEVELAND — The Coast Guard is responding to a report of a discharge of an unknown substance from the site of a sunken barge near Kelley’s Island Shoal in Lake Erie, Sunday.

Due to the report, the Coast Guard has established a safety zone 3 nautical miles east of Kelley’s Island Shoal extending 1,000 feet around position 41-38’21″N, 082-29’35″W.

Friday evening crews at Marine Safety Unit Toledo, Ohio, received a report from the Cleveland Underwater Explorers, of a leak of an unknown substance emanating from the barge and an odor of solvent, but they did not observe the leak underwater. CLUE divers were investigating the wreck to determine if it was the barge Argo which sank during a storm in 1937.

MSU Toledo deployed pollution responders with boat crews from Coast Guard Station Marblehead, Ohio, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Crews reported smelling a strong odor of a solvent on Friday and Saturday.

An initial overflight was conducted by a Coast Guard Air Station Detroit aircrew on Saturday, with MSU Toledo pollution responders aboard, who reported observing a 400 yard discoloration on the water near the site. A second overflight on Sunday morning was unable to locate any discoloration.

A Unified Command of federal and state authorities is being established. NOAA scientific support and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are working with the Coast Guard as part of the Unified Command to take all necessary actions to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.

“What has been reported from responders is consistent with a lighter-end petroleum-based solvent that would quickly dissipate when it reaches the air,” said Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Migliorini, commanding officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Toledo. “Although we’re still working to identify the product, the primary concern is for an inhalation hazard for the responders on-scene.”

T and T Salvage has been contracted to identify and secure the leak and will be on-scene as early as Tuesday. Additionally, Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team personnel are expected to begin air monitoring on Monday to ensure safety of the responders in the safety zone and to provide response assistance.

The safety zone will remain closed to all traffic until canceled. No vessel may enter, transit through or anchor within the regulated area without permission from the Coast Guard patrol commander, Station Marblehead, which may be contacted via VHF-FM ch. 16.

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