Normal speed allowed on 20 miles of Miss. River

Published 4:23 pm Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ships and boats can once again travel at normal speed on the 20 miles of the Mississippi River nearest the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

It said vessels must keep using their slowest safe speed on the 77-mile stretch from above Head of Passes to New Orleans, where crews continue cleaning hundreds of thousands of gallons of heavy fuel oil spilled two weeks ago.

Salvage crews finished pumping oil Wednesday from the wreckage of a barge that crossed into the path of a tanker early July 23, a news release said.

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It said a cargo surveyor estimated more than 165,000 gallons of oil and water were pumped from the barge, and an estimate of how much of that is oil will be made at the American Chemical Lines facility in Harahan.

The next step was for salvage workers to use a big chain to cut the two halves of the tank apart so they can be lifted out. The Coast Guard said oil that couldn’t be pumped out is likely to leak then.

Containment boom has been stretched just downriver of the barge, and skimmer boats are positioned behind that, the Coast Guard said.