by Max Brantley
The Coast Guard says a barge accident on the Mississippi River last night has caused the closure of seven miles of the river and sent three towboat crew members to a Memphis hospital.
An unknown amount of acrylonitrile was spilled. It's a compound used in the making of plastics, among others, and is flammable and toxic.
OSCEOLA, Ark. — The Coast Guard is responding to a report of acrylonitrile in the Mississippi River, near mile marker 775.5, one mile north of the Hachie River inlet, Tuesday.
At approximately 9 p.m., Monday, watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi River received a report from the master of the Merrick Jones, a 128-foot towing vessel pushing 26 barges, that a collision had occured involving the Merrick Jones and the Dixie Express, an 87-foot towing barge pushing two barges of acrylonitrile. A marine and pollution investigation team from Sector Lower Mississippi River were dispatched to assess the incident.
An unknown amount of acrylonitrile was released into the water after one of the barges being pushed by the Dixie Express was damaged in the incident. The source of the spill has been secured.
Additionally, three crewmembers aboard the Dixie Express were picked up by the Henry Soudelier, another towing vessel in the area, and were taken to Methodist North Hospital in Memphis by EMS.
The source of the spill has been secured.
The Mississippi River is closed from Mile Marker 776 to 769 to recreational and commercial traffic due to the incident.
Cleanup responders from HEPCO and U.S. Environmental are on scene.
Tipton County Sheriff's Department, Covington Fire Department and Kirby Inland Marine are assisting with the response.
The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the incident.