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Six Barges Sink, Spill Coal in Ohio River After Hitting Kentucky Bridge

A week after an accident in the Ohio River on Christmas Day, six coal barges are still at the bottom of the river.

Crews are still working to clean up from a major shipping accident on the Ohio River last week. On Christmas day, a towboat that was pushing 15 loaded coal barges crashed into the Second Street (Clark Memorial) Bridge on the Ohio River in Louisville, according to Coast Guard officials.

All 15 of the barges broke free when the towboat hit the bridge. Six of the barges sank, scattering the coal they contained, six have been rescued and three are stuck in place with one lodged into a dam.

The first four barges that initially sank last week released up to 1800 tons of coal into the water. That’s not counting the other two that sank afterward.

On Friday, the water at the dam sank a full foot, temporarily halting recovery efforts. The Coast Guard says that they are working with the Army Corps of Engineers to reclaim the barges. Their recovery plans include staging heavy-duty retrieval equipment.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Michael Metz told Wave 3 News: “Currently one of the barges is capsized over the dam and it’s preventing one of the gates from closing. Obviously it’s a very very large concern, but the Coast Guard, along with the responsible party and the Army Corps of Engineers are working tirelessly to safely remove that barge.”

Although people are working nonstop to recover the barges, they are not being paid because of the government shutdown. Metz said on Friday that “time was of the essence” to recover the barges and contain the coal spillage.

As of late Friday evening, the Ohio River is open again to all water traffic from Twelve Mile Island to McAlpine Lock and Dam. However, the Coast Guard says that at this time, traffic is allowed only during daylight hours and must be accompanied by an assist vessel.

The coal spill is not anticipated to affect drinking water since Louisville’s intake facility is upstream from where the barges sank. But locals are still upset with the accident.

“Honestly, I’m kind of upset,” local resident Devin Thomas said to ABC-WHAS11. “It’s like I just want to know who messed up and how bad is it going to mess up the environment?”

“I grew up on this river. I never left this area,” he added. “And I want to see it grow and develop. I want to see it beautiful and I want to see it prosper. And that is not helping.”

The cause of the incident is still being investigated.

Leighanna Shirey

Leighanna graduated with a degree in English from Pensacola Christian College. After teaching high school English for five years, she decided to pursue her dream of writing and editing. When not working, she enjoys traveling with her husband, spending time with her dogs, and drinking way too much coffee.

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