Officials: No major environmental impact expected from barge crash

The Evening News and The Tribune

Jan. 04–CLARKSVILLE — Safety officials say there is no large environmental threat at this time from any coal which may have spilled into the Ohio River after a tow pushing 15 barges crashed into the Clark Memorial Bridge Dec. 25, according to a news release.

As of Wednesday, there were still two barges trapped at the McAlpine lock and dam, one under a dam gate. Seven others had sunk and six had been moored on the shore.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Towing are working together to get the remaining barges salvaged safely and as quickly as possible, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Michael Metz said Wednesday.

It is unknown at this time how much coal may have spilled into the river, but each of the barges were carrying between 1,500 and 1,800 tons. Metz has previously said the Coast Guard is in close contact with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, who have told them there is no expected safety threat from the introduction of the coal.

In a Thursday news release from the Coast Guard, the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife an the Kentucky Environmental Protection Agency weighed in.

“The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is always concerned whenever there is a spill of any kind in the state’s waterways,” according to the release. “Outside of the immediate area where the coal has settled onto the riverbed, we do not anticipate an acute effect to aquatic life. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will assist or provide guidance to the Kentucky Division of Water and federal agencies on any additional actions after the emergency phase.”

The Kentucky Environmental Protection Agency said it is closely monitoring the situation and “sees no evidence of an environmental /drinking water issue from the incident,” the release states. “It is believed that much/most of the coal is still in the barges. When they are raised, the Cabinet will assess whether there is any environmental concern from the remaining coal in the river and what action may be taken, if necessary, to address a release.”

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.