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Barges Break Loose, Two Crack Open, Spill Gasoline

February 20, 1989

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Seven barges carrying gasoline broke free from a towboat Sunday on the Ohio River and spilled an estimated 40,000 gallons of fuel into the river after striking a railroad bridge piling, officials said.

Recovery of the gasoline was impossible because it had diluted, said Rich Carter, assistant chief of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Emergency Response.

″No impact has been observed thus far,″ he said.

All other downstream communities close enough to be affected draw their water from wells or underground aquifers, Carter said. The river’s speedy flow makes the spill unlikely to have much effect on water supplies or aquatic life, he said.

The rain-swollen Ohio River crested Saturday at 52.2 feet, inches above flood stage, and was falling Sunday. The spill posed the most immediate threat to the Louisville, Ky., water system about 100 miles downstream.

Gasoline tends to float on the water’s surface, and authorities said water systems served by the river could close their intakes until the gasoline floats past. The spill occurred downstream from the intakes of Cincinnati’s water system, officials said.

The barges, containing leaded and unleaded gasoline, were being pushed down river by the towboat MV Super America from an Ashland Oil Inc. refinery at Ashland, Ky., to an Ashland products terminal on the river in Cincinnati.

Ashland spokesman Roger Schrum and the Coast Guard said two of the barges were leaking.

Officials at the scene said several other towboats helped recapture the loose barges. Carter said the leaking barges were being drained of their remaining gasoline Sunday night at the Ashland facility and at a Standard Oil Co. facility in nearby Bromley, Ky., across the Ohio from Cincinnati. Recovery of the gasoline was impossible because it had been diluted, Carter said.

The incident occurred about 9:45 a.m. and river traffic was flowing normally by afternoon, said Coast Guard Lt. Chuck Polk said.

The railway bridge, owned by Norfolk & Southern Railroad, was inspected and was apparently not damaged, said Herb Nugent, terminal trainmaster for Norfolk & Southern. The bridge is at Ludlow, Ky., within view of downtown Cincinnati.

An Ashland Oil storage tank near Pittsburgh, ruptured Jan. 2, 1988, and spilled about 1 million gallons of fuel that caused water-supply problems along the Ohio River.

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