July 30, 2008

Sunken Tugboat Cleanup Continues

By Joshua Mellman, Philadelphia Daily News

Jul. 30--The cleanup of two out-of-service tugboats that sank Monday in the Schuylkill near the Girard Point Bridge was scheduled to continue today.

About 1,000 gallons of bilge and waste oil were recovered, and Coast Guard investigators estimated that another 1,000 gallons remained.

Cleanup crews contained the oil by circling the area around the boats with two rows of boom, a temporary floating barrier used to contain oil spills, authorities said.

Despite a 500-yard safety zone around the source of the spill, a light sheen of oil floated on the water yesterday between the Interstate 95 bridge and the George C. Platt Memorial Bridge and will not be recovered.

Officials said the incident was reported at 4:43 a.m. Monday by a man who noticed that the tugboats had disappeared and that the air smelled of fuel.

The owner of the tugboats, Hays Tug and Launch Service Inc., of Chester, has hired contractors from Clean Venture to clean up the oil and salvage the boats. Meredith Management, an oil-spill-management company, is overseeing cleanup efforts.

The owner is footing the bill for the contractors and cleanup crew, Coast Guard Petty Officer Nyx Cangemi said.

The boats had been unattended for three years, officials said.

"It's an uninspected vessel that was tied up on private property," Cangemi said. "As long as there's no environmental threat, and as long as they have the consent of the property owner, it can be there tied up on private property."

Cangemi said the Coast Guard will raise the boats after the oil is cleaned up.

Officials said that they still don't know what caused the incident and that they are unsure if the vessels sank simultaneously. The tugboats were tied to the pier separately.

The spill's impact on wildlife is minimal, officials said. The industrial area is not residential, so there are no health hazards, officials said.

"We just want to ensure a swift cleanup on the oil, to minimize the impact on the environment," Cangemi said.

A Daily News reporter who tried to inspect the scene yesterday was turned away by workers who said they had been instructed by the Coast Guard to keep people out.


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