LAKEPORT, Mich. – According to authorites a 110-foot dredging barge sank in Lake Huron early Thursday, July 19, and a tugboat that was pushing the barge capsized, spilling thousands of gallons of diesel fuel. No injuries were reported.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the accident occurred at about 4:35 a.m when the Arthur J, a commercial barge, began to sink near the southern end of the lake. It is unknown at this time what caused the vessel to sink.
Local media reported that the barge spilled between 1,500 and 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel and an unknown amount of oil.
Huffington Post reports:
By early afternoon, the Coast Guard, St. Clair County’s hazardous materials team and other agencies had placed more than 1,400 feet of containment boom on the water to limit the fuel’s spread – a task hampered by choppy waves and driving rain, Petty Officer Lauren Laughlin said.
The sheen appeared to be breaking up and none of the fuel had reached shore, she said. But the St. Clair County Health Department temporarily closed all the county’s beaches, Jennifer Michaluk, health education and planning director, told the Port Huron Times Herald.
MCM Marine Inc., based in Sault Ste. Marie, owns the dredge and the 38-foot tug Madison. The company has hired a contractor to handle the cleanup, which the Coast Guard will monitor to ensure federal regulations are followed.
“We want to do everything we can to make things right and try to get our boats back,” said Tom Spencer, accountant for MCM. He said he didn’t know what caused the sinking but said the weather on the lake was “really nasty.”
“We’re very grateful our crew is OK. That’s the most important thing,” Spencer said.