The folllowing is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(VICKSBURG, Miss.) — The unified command continues to respond to a crude oil spill in the lower Mississippi River near mile marker 436 in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday.
At approximately 2:30 p.m. the tow-barge that is on scene started removing fuel from the damaged barge MOC-12. The damaged barge will be inspected and prepared for transit to a maritime facility nearby Vicksburg after oil removal operations are complete.
“Despite the response crew efforts to contain the seeping oil, an unspecified amount has broken through the containment boom due to the difficulties of working on a dynamic and powerful river current,” said Capt. William Drelling, Federal On Scene Commander for the Vicksburg oil spill. “Skimmers are on scene to help minimize the environmental threat of any additional potential releases.”
Response crews have deployed 2,800-feet of boom to contain further oil release. Skimming vessels have recovered approximately 3,900 gallons of oil-water mixture since the incident occurred. The tank levels are being continually monitored.
The Mississippi River remains closed for a 16-mile distance between mile marker 425 and mile marker 441 near Vicksburg. However, the unified command is working with the Coast Guard’s Marine Transportation System Recovery Unit to coordinate the transit of vessels to test the effects on response operations.
Currently, there are 34 northbound vessels with 532 barges and 37 southbound vessels with 524 barges affected due to the river closure. Mississippi River vessel traffic queue management is ongoing.
The unified command consists of representatives from the Coast Guard, state on-scene coordinators from Mississippi and Louisiana and the owner of the towing vessel, Nature's Way Marine LLC. Personnel from Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi River, Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Vicksburg and the Coast Guard’s National Strike Force are on scene as part of a unified command effort to oversee cleanup and salvage operations.
A safety zone is in effect between the mile markers. The Vicksburg Riverfront Boat Ramp is scheduled to re-open today, however boating within the safety zone is prohibited.
The Coast Guard investigation into the incident is ongoing.