Facebook Twitter

Oil spill blamed on barge-tugboat collision

SHARE Oil spill blamed on barge-tugboat collision

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A barge spilled more than 9,000 gallons of oil into Narragansett Bay, raising concerns about damage to shore birds, eel grass and fragile habitat.

The Coast Guard believes Wednesday's spill was caused when the barge collided with a tug that was towing it. Part of the bay was quickly closed by the state to fishing and shellfishing.

"This is one of the most valuable areas in Narragansett Bay for marine life," said John Torgan of the environmental group Save The Bay. "This is a very serious spill."

The barge was ruptured two miles from Prudence Island, home to the Narragansett Bay Estuarine Sanctuary. Officials said most of the spill was quickly contained, though oil had washed ashore by afternoon and five dead swans were found covered with oil.

Torgan said it could be days before damage can be assessed.

The barge and a tugboat were heading to Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, Mass., when the accident occurred at about 6:30 a.m. The barge was carrying more than 10 million gallons of oil.

Operators and crew members on the boats were being tested for drug and alcohol use, which is standard procedure, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrea Stevenson. Both boats are owned by Penn Maritime Inc. of Stamford, Conn.

Cleanup contractor Clean Harbors Inc. was able to get to the scene quickly and contain most of the slick. The barge was able to transfer the remainder of the oil from the damaged tank to other tanks.