Locks and Dams

Cleanup Nearly Complete At Jamie Whitten Lock

Cleanup efforts are almost complete at Jamie Whitten Lock at Mile 412 on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway following an early September incident that led to the release of crude oil into the lock chamber.

On the morning of September 8, the mv. Savage Voyager, part of Savage Inland Marine’s fleet of towboats, was locking through with a pair of tank barges when the hull of one of the barges was compromised, triggering the release of an estimated 117,000 gallons of crude oil into the lock. The lock was promptly closed, with the vessel, barges and oil contained inside. The U.S. Coast Guard imposed a waterway closure between Mile 410 and Mile 414 and established a Unified Command to direct cleanup efforts.

Cleanup contractor E3 Environmental deployed boom around the lock and dam and established a containment area on the lower end of the lock.

Other agencies involved in the cleanup include Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley, Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Nashville, Coast Guard National Strike Force, the National Transportation Safety Board, T&T Salvage, Savage Inland Marine, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, National Response Corporation and the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health.

The cleanup has been a two-part process, with vacuum trucks and skimmers deployed first. The second phase was cleaning the lock and vessels themselves.

Skimming efforts wrapped up September 16 when the Savage Voyager and the barges were moved out of the lock chamber and into the containment area on the lower lock wall. Over the next couple of days, cleanup crews focused efforts during daytime hours on cleaning the hulls of the mv. Savage Voyager and the barges, with crews pressure washing the lock chamber primarily at night.

Officials expected cleanup on the boat and barges to wrap up late in the day September 18. The Associated Press reported the vessels will travel to New Orleans, La., for repair. With the vessels released from the area, crews will focus on removing any remaining oil residue from the lock chamber. The lock is expected to reopen within a week. As of September 18, the queue at Jamie Whitten Lock included five downbound tows and two to three upbound tows.