10 barges break free on Ohio River; three pinned at dam

(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — Emergency teams worked to secure 10 barges that broke loose from a towboat Tuesday on the Ohio River in Louisville, Ky., including a barge carrying 1,400 metric tons of methanol that is partially submerged, NPR reported.

“There is currently zero evidence of a tank breach or any leaks, and air and water monitoring resources are in place,” Louisville Metro Emergency Services said. It added, “There is currently no impact to Louisville Water’s water intake or water quality.”

The incident began just after 2 a.m. local time on Tuesday. That’s when a vessel towing 11 barges hit a “stationary structure at the entrance to the Portland Canal near the McAlpine Lock and Dam,” according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Three barges are pinned against the McAlpine Dam on the Ohio River after a breakaway Tuesday. Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet photo

Ten barges broke free and three of them settled next to part of the McAlpine Dam. Images from the scene show one of the barges or its cargo crumpled up against a pillar at what looks to be the dam’s spill gates.

While the Louisville emergency agency is leading the response, the effort includes the U.S. Coast Guard’s Ohio Valley sector and the Kentucky Environment and Energy Cabinet. A private company, CTEH, is also at the scene monitoring air quality.

By Rich Miller