NEW ORLEANS – A disabled barge that had already spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Mississippi River leaked again Wednesday, forcing authorities to close a two-mile stretch to ship traffic for six hours.
Traffic had just returned to normal on a 100-mile section that was closed for six days after a tanker hit the barge, which was carrying 419,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil. The tanker broke the middle of three oil tanks and bent the barge into a twisted wreck.
The forward tank, which is now braced against a bridge pier, leaked about 2,500 gallons of oil Wednesday when it settled as the river dropped a bit. Similar small leaks can be expected until crews secure the tank to a massive concrete pier, said Capt. Lincoln Stroh, Coast Guard captain of the Port of New Orleans.
Divers have found the stern tank is apparently still full, meaning the spill could be one-third less than the original worst-case estimate of 419,000 gallons.
Divers haven’t been able to figure out how much oil remains in the tank that leaked Wednesday.