Barge hits railroad bridge, spills oil

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VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — Cleanup crews with booms skimmed oily water from the Mississippi River a day after a barge with more than 80,000 gallons of oil struck a railroad bridge near Vicksburg, spreading a sheen of light crude that kept part of the waterway shut to ship traffic today, authorities said.

It remained unclear this morning how much oil had leaked into the river, according to the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.

The spill backed up at least 24 tugboats, barges and other vessels on the normally bustling corridor, said Kavanaugh Breazeale, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg.

Breazeale said the damaged barge had eight tanks and each tank could hold 80,000 gallons of oil. He said the investigation had shown that one tank was pierced above the water line.

Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally said crews are working on skimming oil that is contained in the boom and that he, too, was unsure much oil had leaked.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Ryan Gomez said investigators reported that a towboat or tug was pushing two tank barges when the collision occurred about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

The second barge was damaged, Gomez said, and authorities inspected and cleared the railroad bridge afterward.

The oily sheen was reported up to three miles downriver from the bridge at Vicksburg on Sunday. Gomez said crews have laid down a boom and also a secondary boom. They also were using a rotating skimmer device to sweep up oily water in the river.

Railroad traffic was allowed to continue after the bridge was found safe for trains, Petty Officer Carlos Vega said Sunday.

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