Barge bearing methanol wedged against bridge in Louisville one week after accident

Published 10:26 am Thursday, April 6, 2023

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Numerous state and local agencies are continuing their efforts to safely unload a barge containing methanol, following an accident a week ago that has left it pinned against McAlpine Dam on the Ohio River in Louisville.

According to local media reports, on March 28 a vessel towing 11 barges hit a structure at the entrance to the Portland Canal in the Ohio River, which is the entrance to the McAlpine Lock, causing 10 of the 11 barges to break free. Three of them were wedged against McAlpine Dam, although one of them has since been freed and removed.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet says one barge, whose cargo included 1,400 tons of methanol, a potentially hazardous chemical also known as wood alcohol, ended up partially submerged at McAlpine Dam.

Louisville Emergency Management says crews on the scene have made progress with stabilization efforts in preparation of the safe transfer of methanol from the settled barge to a receiver vessel in accordance with the approved salvage plan. Once the barge containing methanol has been stabilized, a plan for salvage of the second barge, which is carrying corn, will be finalized. They say the situation is dynamic and subject to change due to river conditions and equipment performance.

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The U.S. Coast Guard is currently working with the responsible parties in recovering the barges as this is a dynamic changing environment; they are also working with the NTSB as the investigation is ongoing at this time. The U.S. Coast Guard has resumed downbound river traffic.

The Louisville Water Company says the city’s drinking water is safe, and the barge incident has had no impact on local water quality, as it took place downriver from Louisville Water’s intakes.

There has been daily air and water testing, which has determined there have been no leaks. Teams will continue air and water monitoring, weather permitting, for the duration of the incident. Water systems downriver have also not detected any ethanol in their supply.

No injuries have been reported, although river traffic was shut down for several days. It has been allowed to resume.