Kentucky crews work to remove remaining 2 runaway barges stuck in Ohio River, including 1 containing methanol. There’s no evidence of a chemical leak, officials say
By Sara Smart and Michelle Watson, CNN
Two runaway barges remain stuck in the Ohio River, according to officials in Louisville, Kentucky, who reiterated Wednesday there is still no evidence of a chemical leak as one of the barges is carrying the highly flammable compound methanol.
In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg confirmed just two barges out of 10 that initially broke loose early Tuesday morning remained “settled against the lower McAlpine Dam structure along the Ohio river.”
One of the barges is carrying 1,400 tons of methanol, a Louisville Metro Emergency Services spokesperson told CNN in a phone call. The other barges were carrying soy and corn.
Ten barges total broke loose and became stuck against the McAlpine Dam early Tuesday morning, according to a news release that afternoon from the US Army Corps of Engineers, at which time seven had been recovered. No injuries were reported.
Greenberg on Wednesday stressed there remains no evidence of a chemical leak, and a Friday release from Louisville Metro Emergency Services said it has taken more than 300 air quality samples and “all tests continue to show no detections of Methanol.”
Methanol is an alcoholic chemical compound that’s highly flammable. It’s considered an alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, according to the US Department of Energy. Methanol was used in the 1990s as a transportation fuel but is no longer developed for that purpose, the department said.
The stuck barges are from the Ingram Barge Co. Its chief executive, John Roberts, was also at Wednesday’s news conference, where he said the company’s primary concern was removing the barges safely.
“Ingram is a proud member of the Kentucky business community with over 400 associates residing in the commonwealth. This is incredibly important to us,” Roberts said.
“Although we were not the operator when this occurred, those are our barges out there on that dam,” he added, “and we are going to be responsible for getting them off in a safe manner.”
In order to remove the barge containing methanol, authorities need the river current and levels to get below the dam so they can “close some of the gates and build up a pool,” Roberts said.
“We believe that the pressure of the current right now is what’s pinning the barge against the dam, and at that point it should refloat itself and then we can pull it out,” he said.
The US Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley has set up a unified command center with the Louisville Emergency Management Agency as the lead coordinating agency. The USCG is also investigating the incident.
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CNN’s Aya Elamroussi and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.