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Canadian Bulk Carrier Spills Oil Into Maumee River


The Canadian bulk carrier Algonorth tied up to the Midwest Marine Terminal. (Photo credit unknown)

TOLEDO, Ohio, December 17, 2007 (ENS) – Droves of cleanup workers spent much of the weekend trying to contain and collect 3,300 gallons of diesel fuel that spilled into Ohio’s Maumee River Friday night by a Canadian bulk carrier.

Loaded with grain, the Algonorth was leaving the Midwest Marine Terminal Friday night when the vessel’s stern smashed into the dock, rupturing two fuel tanks 10 feet above the water line, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and company officials.

The 730 foot carrier is owned by Algoma Central Marine of St. Catharines, Ontario and managed by Seaway Marine Transport.

The spill forced a closure of the Maumee River, the largest river flowing into the Great Lakes. Four commercial vessels were delayed as a result. After a 14-hour river closure, the Captain of the Port opened the river just after noon Saturday.

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Toledo, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the city of Toledo, Environmental Services and oil spill response contractors continue to respond to the spill of 3,100 gallons of light diesel and 200 gallons of blended fuel.

The Coast Guard and clean-up contractors deployed a 2,400 foot boom of containment material in the vicinity of the spill.

An additional 1,600 feet of boom is available but is not needed, since most of the spill will have evaporated or dissipated by now making it unrecoverable, incident team officials said.

BP Oil, Sun Oil and the Northern Ohio and Michigan Aid consortium provided resources to the response.

Boats from Coast Guard Station Toledo and an HH-65 helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit provided surface and aerial patrols to search for impacted areas.

Prevailing winds blew some of the floating fuel to the shore at the Midwest Terminal where workers tried to suck up the fuel with vacuum trucks and absorb it with large pads.

The spill was the largest in the Maumee River in years, officials said, but it could have been far worse. The spill amounted to less than one percent of the fuel on the ship, said Captain John Greenway, vice president of operations for Seaway Marine Transport, which manages the Algonorth.

But the spill worsens environmental conditions on the river, which was just beginning to recover from decades of dumping toxic waste, pesticides and herbicides.

The 1987 U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement lists 43 Areas of Concern – specific geographic regions where aquatic life is impaired. The Maumee River is one of them.

The Great Lakes Wiki information service, which tracks the 43 Areas of Concern, says, “The river has begun to recover and is exhibiting signs of a healthy ecosystem. Walleye are beginning to run and breed on a regular basis. The eagles have begun to re-occupy their niche here as well.”

The spilled fuel spread over about a square mile, but most of it should evaporate, officials said. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

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