(NEW ORLEANS) — The Port of New Orleans and a 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River were closed Sunday after a barge collided with a towboat and spilled oil, Fox News reported. The incident occurred Saturday afternoon near Vacherie, 47 miles west of New Orleans. The barge, one of two loaded with light crude and being pushed by Hannah C. Settoon, hit Lindsay Ann Erickson, which was pushing grain barges, according to a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman.
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The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:
(NEW ORLEANS) — The Mississippi River has reopened with restrictions as of approximately 1:30 p.m. as the Unified Command continues response operations in connection with the E2MS 303 incident near Vacherie, Monday.
A successful flight with unified command, state and federal on-scene coordinators, conducted a comprehensive assessment of the affected portion of the river and determined the river was safe to transit with restrictions.
Mariners must comply with a broadcast notice to mariners being issued for river transits by the Coast Guard.
It is calculated that approximately 31,500 gallons of light crude oil was discharged from the collision of the E2MS 303 tank barge and the motor vessel Lindsay Ann Erickson, a towing vessel, into the waterway Saturday.
Response crews with Environmental Safety & Health, an oil spill removal organization, has strategically deployed containment boom to protect the water intakes for three parishes in the affected area. All impacted water intake facilities in the affected area are taking precautionary measures to prevent contamination.
The unified command has confirmed with local officials that there are no impacts to drinking water.
The Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health is conducting air monitoring for air pollution threats. No exposure concerns to the public have been detected through this monitoring.
The unified command consists of the Coast Guard, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, Environmental Safety & Health and Forefront Emergency Management. Also responding are representatives from Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and with participation from the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness along with St James and St John the Baptist parishes.
There are currently no reports of oiled wildlife.
"Our highest priorities in this response are the safety of the public and responders, and protection of the environment, said Coast Guard Cmdr. Rebecca Ore, E2MS 303 Incident Commander.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.