Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tanker Spills More than 400 Million Gallons of Fuel into the Mississippi

Tonight officials say the water's safe to drink in New Orleans, La., and surrounding areas after more than 400 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the mighty Mississippi River. They've closed 60 miles of the river that runs past city.

I've seen video that shows slicks of fuel throughout the river bend, shining on top of the famous crescent that hugs New Orleans. Earlier reports said 400,000 gallons spilled. Others say 375,000 while other reports declare a half million gallons of biodiesel fuel in the water.

A tug boat crashed into a tanker, splitting the tanker in two, reported news sources. The Coast Guard is investigating, and the pilots are being tested for drugs and alcohol. One official said criminal charges may result from this accident. The tug boat's pilot was not properly licensed.

This morning officials had closed only 30 miles of the Mississippi, but WDSU, which has several videos on the story, reported tonight that the river's closed from Harvey Locks to lower Plaquemines Parish, 60 miles, nearly to Pilottown. The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board have not given a time for when the river will open again.

The Times Picayune reports that not 60 but 80 miles of the river is closed. The paper is one of the sources reporting that more than 400,000 gallons of biodiesel now contaminate the Mississippi and "threatens the fragile delta ecosystem". Check out this map from paper showing how much of the river and the area near the city has been impacted, and here's helicopter video.

Residents of Algiers, Gretna, St. Bernard Parish, and Plaquemines have been asked to conserve water (not wash cars, take shorter showers, don't water lawns). New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin tells us the water is safe in the city but people should use it with moderation. He says it's okay to drink it and bathe in it, but some residents don't believe him. One woman told WDSU, "Tonight I think we're going to use bottled water."

Joshua Lewis said he rode his bike to the riverfront to see for himself after hearing news of the spill.

"They said the water is fine, but I bought some gallons of water this morning, " Lewis said. "I don't think I'm ever drinking this water again. It was never a clean river, but this is a big mess." (Times Picayune)

The spilled fuel is described as heavy and tar-like by WWL. Reporters at WDSU say it's the kind of fuel that dissipates quickly but that residue will sink to the river bed.

I have relatives who may be impacted by problems with the water supply. However, my water supply was not contaminated by the spill.

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1 comment: said...

Hello there!

It will be a VERY LONG time before the water is safe... and it is a disgrace that officials are pretending that all's well...

{shaking my head}

Thank you for reporting on this issue!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!