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Coast Guard Reopens River While Workers Clean Up Spill

September 9, 1988

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ The Coast Guard today reopened a 50-mile stretch of the Mississippi River to limited traffic while workers mopped up the last of a flammable, poisonous chemical spilled when a barge ran aground.

The barge, which split open before dawn Thursday upstream near Natchez, Miss., was loaded with styrene, a clear chemical that floats on water, said Chief Warrant Officer Rick Meidt of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office.

More than 40,000 gallons, or 1,000 barrels, spilled into the river, said Louis Stahlberg, Coast Guard officer of the day.

The Coast Guard closed the river between Natchez and Angola, La.

The barge was one of 13 being pushed by a tugboat owned by Apex Towing Co. of St. Louis, Mo.

Four members of the tug’s crew were treated at a hospital for dizziness and nausea, Meidt said.

Authorities said styrene vapors can irritate the eyes and throat and can cause loss of consciousness. Direct contact with styrene can burn the skin.

The cause of the accident had not been determined, Meidt said.

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