Open hatches found on sunken Lake Erie barge

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(CLEVELAND) — Crews continue to respond to and investigate a reported discharge of an unknown substance from the site of a sunken barge near Kelleys Island Shoal in Lake Erie on Thursday.

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.

During dive operations Wednesday, a pinhole-sized leak was detected in one of the cargo tanks and was successfully secured by the dive team. As a precautionary measure, on-scene responders were taken to a local hospital for medical evaluation and have since been released. Surface operations were suspended to ensure safety of all responders and will resume when site safety coordinators determine it is safe for responders to return.
A Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Detroit launched to provide an overflight assessment of the area Thursday.

Results from a sheen sample collected were returned and indicate the sample was typical of a light to medium refined oil that had significantly degraded over time.

T&T Marine Salvage crews completed their general assessment of the barge Monday, with a total of 12 hatches discovered. Four of those hatches were not secured and the remaining eight hatches were closed with no leaks detected. Samples were taken from the sediment inside the open compartments and have been sent for testing.

Due to the potential threat from any remaining cargo in the tanks with secured hatches, the unified command will continue assessing the site in anticipation of removing any remaining product.

The Coast Guard established a safety zone, located 8 nautical miles east of Kelleys Island and extending 1,000 feet around position 41-38'21"N, 082-29'35"W. It remains in effect and is closed to all traffic until canceled. 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 Channel 16.

The Canadian Coast Guard is working closely with the Unified Command to ensure necessary preparedness and response on both sides of the international border. The Canadian Coast Guard deployed environmental response personnel to the Unified Command in Toledo, Ohio, to ensure every community remains up to date on the latest developments.


(CLEVELAND) (Oct. 25) — The Coast Guard is responding to a report of a discharge of an unknown substance from the site of a sunken barge near Kelley's Island Shoal in Lake Erie on Sunday.

Due to the report, the Coast Guard has established a safety zone 3 nautical miles east of Kelley's Island Shoal extending 1,000 feet around position 41-38'21"N, 082-29'35"W.

Friday evening crews at Marine Safety Unit Toledo, Ohio, received a report from the Cleveland Underwater Explorers, of a leak of an unknown substance emanating from the barge and an odor of solvent, but they did not observe the leak underwater. CLUE divers were investigating the wreck to determine if it was the barge Argo which sank during a storm in 1937.

MSU Toledo deployed pollution responders with boat crews from Coast Guard Station Marblehead, Ohio, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Crews reported smelling a strong odor of a solvent on Friday and Saturday.

An initial overflight was conducted by a Coast Guard Air Station Detroit aircrew on Saturday, with MSU Toledo pollution responders aboard, who reported observing a 400 yard discoloration on the water near the site. A second overflight on Sunday morning was unable to locate any discoloration.

A Unified Command of federal and state authorities is being established. NOAA scientific support and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are working with the Coast Guard as part of the Unified Command to take all necessary actions to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.

"What has been reported from responders is consistent with a lighter-end petroleum-based solvent that would quickly dissipate when it reaches the air," said Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Migliorini, commanding officer of Marine Safety Unit Toledo. "Although we're still working to identify the product, the primary concern is for an inhalation hazard for the responders on-scene."

T&T Salvage has been contracted to identify and secure the leak and will be on-scene as early as Tuesday. Additionally, Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team personnel are expected to begin air monitoring on Monday to ensure safety of the responders in the safety zone and to provide response assistance.

By Professional Mariner Staff