Firm Issued Violations For Barge Leak

Numerous Ohio River news outlets reported a December 19 barge leak on the river. Two months later, the barge owner, Southern Towing from Memphis, Tenn., has been issued three violations that carry potential fines up to $25,000 a day per violation, reported the Enquirer, a USA Today affiliate.

The news outlet said the nearly 50-year-old barge buckled as the liquid cargo was being offloaded at a dock in Cincinnati, Ohio, spilling approximately 467,000 gallons of urea ammonium nitrate, a liquid fertilizer, into the river. By the time the incident was reported, the Enquirer said the barge was completely sunken in the river and the chemicals had started to make their way downstream.

According to the Louisville (Ky.) Water Company, its scientists worked with ORSANCO (Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission) to monitor the river conditions daily—and then hourly as the spill flowed to Louisville.

“This is one of the most unique spills we have dealt with at Louisville Water since the ammonia compound didn’t appear on the water, like an oil sheen,” Kelley Dearing-Smith, vice president-communications and marketing for Louisville Water, told The Waterways Journal. “Our scientists really had to be detectives—sampling the river to find the plume, sampling to identify the length of the plume and the highest point of the plume.”

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Dearing-Smith said that because Louisville Water uses chloramine as the disinfectant and ammonia is part of its process to produce chloramine, the levels of ammonia in the river were of concern.

“We monitored the plume daily and then hourly as it traveled to Louisville and had contingency plans in place if we needed to adjust treatment strategies,” said Dearing-Smith. “We created a mobile lab and ended up doing hourly monitoring and analysis on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The plume passed through Louisville December 25, and we did not have to adjust our treatment. The amount of the chemical was diluted as it traveled to Louisville and Christmas Day is typically our lowest production day of the year, paying off in our favor.”

It was reported that the Coast Guard does not regulate the fertilizer that was spilled. Other cargoes not regulated by the Coast Guard include coal, grain and recycled metal.

The Waterways Journal was unable to reach Southern Towing for comment at the time of publication.