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Spill Closes Mass. Bay to Shellfishing

April 28, 2003

FALMOUTH, Mass. (AP) _ A ruptured barge spilled at least 14,700 gallons of fuel oil in Buzzards Bay, a prime shellfishing area on the Massachusetts coast, the Coast Guard said Monday.

State officials closed most of the bay to shellfishing Monday as a precaution.

A Coast Guard cutter equipped with an oil skimming system and a private cleanup vessel were headed to the site, which was about four miles southwest of Woods Hole, said Petty Officer Keith Alholm.

Coast Guard pilots reported an oil slick from the spill had spread out to an area of 10 miles by two miles Sunday evening, but by Monday the slick was breaking up, Alholm said. He had no further details on the size of the slick.

Buzzards Bay is one of the state’s best shellfishing areas, producing quahogs, soft-shell clams, scallops and oysters. It is west of Cape Cod in southeastern Massachusetts.

Monday’s closure of shellfish beds affected about three-quarters of the bay, said Dave Whittaker, a senior marine fisheries biologist at state Division of Marine Fisheries.

Alholm said a 12-foot by 2-foot crack was found in the barge Sunday evening. The cause of the crack was still under investigation.

Most of the escaping oil had been contained by floating booms, Alholm said. He didn’t know if the leak had been plugged.

Suzanne Tavani, a spokeswoman for the barge owner, Bouchard Transportation Co. Inc. of Hicksville, N.Y., said the company’s goal was ``total cleanup″ of the spill.

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On the Net:

Division of Marine Fisheries: http://www.state.ma.us/dfwele/dmf/

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