A barge laden with 80,000 gallons of oil struck a railroad bridge in Vicksburg, Mississippi spilling light crude into the Mississippi River and closing the waterway for miles each way, the Coast Guard said. A second barge was damaged. Although an oily sheen was reported up to three miles downriver from Vicksburg, investigators were uncertain how much of the oil had spilled when the bridge was hit.
The oil sheen from the incident was unlikely to pose a threat to the Gulf of Mexico, located more than 340 river miles south of Vicksburg. Authorities were still trying to pinpoint the leak’s source, but it appeared to be coming from one or two tanks located at the stern of the first barge.
United States Environmental Services, a response-and-remediation company, was working to contain the oil with booms before collecting it.
Railroad traffic was allowed to continue after the bridge was found safe for trains.
The last time an oil spill closed a portion of the lower Mississippi River, it was for less than a day last February 2012 after an oil barge and a construction barge collided, spilling less than 10,000 gallons of oil. In 2008, a fuel barge collided with a tanker and broke in half, dumping 283,000 gallons of heavy crude into the waterway, and closing the river for six days.