A major incident has taken place in the Ohio River near Louisville, Kentucky, requiring multiple emergency response teams.
Ten barges have detached from their tugboat and are stranded at a dam, with one carrying over 1,400 tons of methanol, a highly toxic substance, and reportedly sinking.
It is uncertain if there has been any leakage, but if so, the substance will likely dilute quickly, although some fish mortality may occur. The other barges were carrying soybean oil and corn.
Three barges, one of them transporting about 1,400 tons of methanol, were pinned against a dam on the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday, officials said.
The three were part of a group of 10 that broke free from their tugboat about 2 a.m. Tuesday after it hit with a structure at the entrance to the Portland Canal, near the river’s McAlpine Locks and Dam, Louisville’s Emergency Management Agency said in a statement. One barge remained attached, and all except for the one carrying methanol were transporting soy and corn, the agency said.
“There is currently zero evidence of a tank breach or any leaks, and air and water monitoring resources are in place,” the statement said.
The situation prompted officials to limit traffic on the river as state and federal agencies responded and tried to remove the three barges, Coast Guard spokesperson Chris Davis said.
Downriver traffic has been stopped, and nearby locks that had reopened after earlier closings would most likely close again overnight as officials reassess the situation, he said.
“We had shut down traffic,” Davis said. “There’s going to be salvage operations, and it’s going to be dangerous.”
The Louisville Water Co. said that the incident was downriver from its intake and that therefore there has been no impact on the city’s drinking water.
The seven other barges that broke loose were recovered earlier by other vessels in the area, the Army Corps of Engineers said.
No injuries were reported, and no one is missing, it said.
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Methanol is used in windshield washer fluid, gas line antifreeze, carburetor cleaner, copy machine fluid, perfumes and other products. Part of a group of “toxic alcohols,” the chemical can be “extremely dangerous” to humans if ingested and can result in death, coma and respiratory and circulatory failure, according to a white paper on the chemical published by federal health officials.
The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the crash that freed the barges. [NBC]
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