LECLAIRE, Iowa (AP) — Work continued Saturday on the Mississippi River at LeClaire to contain oil and diesel fuel spilled from a partially sunken towboat, rescue wildlife and begin the process of removing the boat from the river.
Three salvaging barges surrounded the boat Saturday and the salvage team was making plans to attempt to pump water from the boat and lift it at the same time. That could occur as early as Tuesday, the Quad City Times reported.
The Stephen L. Colby is a 154-foot-long towboat built in 1967. It's owned by Marquette Transportation out of Paducah, Ky.
About 91,000 gallons of diesel fuel and oil were on the boat when it partially sank after hitting something in the water Monday afternoon, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Coast Guard officials estimate they have pumped 88,601 gallons of watery oil and diesel fuel from the boat. Nearly 50,000 gallons of oily mixture had been removed from the river by absorbent booms.
The investigation into what the boat struck is ongoing.
The Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois EPA and local emergency response crews are working at the site.
A sheen of oil remained on the water's surface but warmer daytime highs near 50 degrees made the cleanup easier, said Bryan Klostermeyer, chief marine science technician for the Coast Guard.
“It's easier on the workers,” he said. “When it's 20 degrees, you have to be mindful of cold stress and hypothermia. When the air is warmer and the sun is shining, it helps the sheen to evaporate.”
He was coordinating cleanup and wildlife protection efforts Saturday. The Coast Guard said it deployed 37 workers, 11 workboats and three skimmers.
Bettendorf veterinarian Dr. Laura Shepard was helping an injured oil-soaked duck brought to her Friday. The hybrid Mallard was discovered on the bank. She says the bird was washed repeatedly with dish soap to remove the contamination.
The bird was emaciated and injured, although it's not clear whether the injuries were from the oil.
“Time will tell if he's going to recover fully or if he is not,” Shepard told KWQC television.
“It's kind of tragic really. I mean, you hear about it on the Gulf, but it's sad that it's right here in our neck of the woods,” she said.
The environmental group Living Lands and Waters was positioning bird deterrent flash tape along the bank to scare birds and other wildlife from the oil remaining in the water.
Coast Guard officials said they're concerned about thousands of migratory birds located just north of LeClaire. As ice advances south, the birds move with it, and that could take them into the spill area.
The river was opened to barge traffic Wednesday after it was shut down for two days due to the accident.
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