OAN Roy Francis
UPDATED 9:00 AM – Wednesday, March 29, 2023
A barge carrying around 1,400 tons of methanol is among the ones that broke loose when the vessel towing them had made contact with a stationary structure.
The vessel, which was towing 11 barges, made contact with a stationary structure at the entrance of the Portland Canal around 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday. After the impact, several of the barges that it was towing had broken loose, with three of them settling against the lower McAlpine Dam Structure.
The barges were carrying soy, corn and one barge, with three different cargo holds, was carrying around 1,400 metric tons of Methanol.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Methanol is “a toxic alcohol that is used industrially as a solvent, pesticide, and alternative fuel source,” as well as “highly flammable” and explosive.
The effects of Methanol poisoning may not become apparent until 72 hours after ingestion, and symptoms can include blindness, vomiting, heart failure and death.
The barge carrying the large amount of Methanol is now reportedly partially submerged in the Ohio river, which is the source of drinking water for more than five million people.
The Louisville Metropolitan Emergency Services (LMES) released a statement providing an update and saying that the situation is being closely monitored.
“There is currently zero evidence of a tank breach or any leaks, and air and water monitoring resources are in place,” the press release stated. “Safety is the top concern—safety of the public and first responder personnel. There is currently no impact to Louisville Water’s water intake or water quality.”
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) said that the barge was “lodged’ in the lower McAlpine Dam, with the nearest municipal water intake being downstream in Henderson, Kentucky.
The Director of Operation at Henderson Water Utility, Kevin Roberts, said that their intake was the nearest to the crash in Kentucky, however there are several other intakes on the Indiana side of the river before theirs.
“If it is to breach and is uncontained, traveling downstream, we do not anticipate it being a problem for Henderson,” he said. “We have the available means to treat any residual concentration that hasn’t evaporated by the time it makes it to us.”
The United States Army Corps of Engineers said that the lock chambers are closed to traffic. They also stated they are working with the U.S. Coast Guard, navigation industry, and marine surveyors to start recovering all the barges.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also said “that there had been no injuries reported and all personnel are accounted for.”
However, after the Environmental Protection Agency said a “contaminant plume” was detected travelling downstream, several municipal water companies that utilize the Ohio River have increased their quality testing and filtration process as a precautionary measure.
This comes weeks the Ohio train derailment in East Palestine, which had caused a toxic plume to also travel down the major U.S. waterway prompting measure to prevent the contamination of the drinking water.
Updates are expected to be provided on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. local time.
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