Lightering operations begin for sunken tanker barge Argo

Responders aboard a work barge for the Lake Erie Barge Argo response are shown in Level B Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as they decontaminate a diver Nov. 9, 2015. The appropriate level of PPE for the responders on the immediate surface and the divers working below must meet or exceed the level of threat being handled in accordance with OSHA and Coast Guard regulations. (Photo courtesy of T&T Marine Salvage)

Responders aboard a work barge for the Lake Erie Barge Argo response are shown in Level B Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as they decontaminate a diver. (Photo courtesy of T&T Marine Salvage)

CLEVELAND – Lightering operations began today for the Lake Erie sunken tanker barge Argo as Unified Command responders took advantage of a favorable weather window.

The first of Argo’s eight tanks are being tapped and offloaded. The product will be pumped into a specialized container on a work barge where it will be run through a series of carbon filters to separate and remove the flammable vapors from the product. The contents will again be sampled to gain a better understanding of the contents of Argo’s hold.

This step-by-step, methodical process will ensure operations are conducted in the safest possible manner for both responders and the public. As weather allows, responders will continue salvage operations one tank at a time.

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.

If a spill were to occur, response equipment and detailed plans created from the Area Contingency Plan and various experts involved in the response are in place to mitigate any possible threats.

As an additional precautionary measure, the safety zone around the barge remains at a 1 nautical mile radius directly above the barge’s location at the bottom of Lake Erie. 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 marine radio channel 16.

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