Crews continue response for sunken Lake Erie barge

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. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station Marblehead)

CLEVELAND – Crews continue to respond to and investigate a reported discharge of an unknown substance from the site of a sunken barge near Kelleys Island Shoal in Lake Erie Thursday.

The unified command, consisting of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Ohio EPA, continues to take all necessary actions to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.

During dive operations Wednesday, a pinhole-sized leak was detected in one of the cargo tanks and was successfully secured by the dive team. As a precautionary measure, on-scene responders were taken to a local hospital for medical evaluation and have since been released. Surface operations were suspended to ensure safety of all responders and will resume when site safety coordinators determine it is safe for responders to return.

A Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Detroit launched to provide an over-flight assessment of the area Thursday.
Results from a sheen sample collected were returned and indicate the sample was typical of a light to medium refined oil that had significantly degraded over time.

T&T Marine Salvage crews completed their general assessment of the barge Monday, with a total of 12 hatches discovered. Four of those hatches were not secured and the remaining eight hatches were closed with no leaks detected. Samples were taken from the sediment inside the open compartments and have been sent for testing.

Due to the potential threat from any remaining cargo in the tanks with secured hatches, the unified command will continue assessing the site in anticipation of removing any remaining product.

The Coast Guard established a safety zone, located 8 nautical miles east of Kelleys Island and extending 1,000 feet around position 41-38’21″N, 082-29’35″W, remains in effect and is 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 channel 16.

The Canadian Coast Guard is working closely with the Unified Command to ensure necessary preparedness and response on both sides of the international border. The Canadian Coast Guard deployed environmental response personnel to the Unified Command in Toledo, Ohio, to ensure every community remains up to date on the latest developments.

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