Coast Guard responds to ‘slurry oil’ spilled in Mississippi River

A section of the Mississippi River is closed because of a slurry oil spill.

Slurry oil is used make heavy fuel oil. The Coast Guard says around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night, two tow boats collided, causing a leak from a barge tank. The Coast Guard estimates 250,000 gallons of the slurry oil could be in the river near the Columbus-Belmont state park. Traffic up and down river from mile marker 939 to 922 is stopped. Because the spill was at night, crews are still assessing the river.

The Coast Guard spokesperson says they did a flyover and saw about a 5-mile stretch of river discoloration. People say they’re scared about what this could mean for the area.

James Lawrence Harper and his sister go down to the river to relax. He says he fishes all the time by the river and is concerned what the spill could mean.

"I don’t know what it’s going to do to the river, all the fish," Harper says.

It’s their responsibility, Coast Guard Spokesperson Seth Johnson says, to respond to spills and pollutants. He says anytime an incident like a spill takes place, the Coast Guard takes it very seriously. Johnson says although the closure may be inconvenient, closing the river is to keep both responders and neighbors safe.

"Basically, it’s a safety zone that’s set up for the actual boats that are responding and the first responders in the area, so they can work unimpeded without traffic going up and down in the river," says Johnson.

The water director in town said their water is groundwater, so people do not need to boil their water.

The Coast Guard found Inland Marine Services to be the responsible party. They are also trying to learn more about this chemical and what it means for the environment, but they don’t know how long it will take to clean up. 

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