Oil spill in river

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – A minor oil spill from a bulk freighter that was moored to buoys in the Mississippi river near LaPlace caused about 200 gallons of thick industrial fuel to leak into the River early Sunday morning.

A spokesman for the United States Coast Guard said the Maltese-owned Jimilta II tanker vessel was in the process of unloading cargo and refueling when the leak occurred. The incident happened around 3:30 a.m. while the vessel was stopped near river mile marker 135, which is near where W. 5th Street intersects with LA Highway 44 in LaPlace.

“The vessel had about 630 gallons of oil on board, but only about 200 gallons of it made it overboard,” said Lt. Beau Powers of the Coast Guard. “Most of the oil stayed contained on the ships decks and a significant portion of the fuel that made it into the water stuck to the vessel.”

Powers said the Jimilta II was carrying No. 6 fuel oil, which, at room temperature, has the consistency of thick paint. He said most of the spilled oil clung to the Jimilta II along with three other vessels that were close by at the time of the spill.

A small portion of the oil clumped together and flowed downriver toward New Orleans, but Powers said it would have no affect on water supply in the parish. He said no water intake valves were shut down and the river stayed open to all boat traffic.

Powers said a U.S. Environmental Service crew spent Sunday and Monday cleaning the oil residue from the four affected ships. He said the Jimilta II remained anchored until all the oil was removed from the freighter’s hull. The cleaning effort wrapped up sometime around 12 p.m. Monday and the vessel continued down river.

Coast Guard Pollution Investigation teams determined operator error ultimately caused the spill. Powers said improper soundings by the crew caused the barge to be overfilled with the fuel oil.

The Jimilta II, which was built in Japan, was issued a Letter of Undertaking for $10,000 as a result of the spill.