A barge and tanker collided on the Mississippi River near the Port of New Orleans on Wednesday, resulting in the barge being split in half, according to the AP. That barge held more than 419,000 gallons of fuel oil, which has polluted up to 98 miles of the river.
The Coast Guard reported a tugboat without a properly licensed pilot was pushing the barge.
The Times-Picayune reports that traffic has been closed along a stretch of the river. The river closure is likely to go on for days while teams work to clean up the heavy tar-like fuel oil. MSNBC described a sheen of oil coating the water from New Orleans almost to the Gulf.
According to the newspaper, the port loses about $100,000 in revenue each day it is closed, and that does not include the losses to terminal operators, stevedores, tug boat operators and other private businesses. No ships were able to travel to or from the port.
The safety of New Orleans' water supply is now in question, and CNN reports that bottled water may have to be trucked in to the city.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Jaclyn Young said in the article that containment booms have been installed to prevent the oil from spreading to environmentally sensitive areas and seeping into water-supply intake valves in Gretna, St. Bernard, Dalcour, Belle Chasse, Pointe à la Hache, Port Sulphur and Boothville-Venice.
She said, "No damage to the marshlands has been reported yet."
Officials reported that so far only a handful of oil-covered birds have been seen.
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