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Accident leaves 3 barges pressed against dam in Ohio River near Louisville

 Ten barges broke free from a vessel near the entrance to the Portland canal in Louisville early Tuesday morning, three ended up pressed against the MacAlpine Dam.
Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet
Ten barges broke free from a vessel near the entrance to the Portland canal in Louisville early Tuesday morning, three ended up pressed against the MacAlpine Dam.

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating a barge accident that resulted in three barges settling against the McAlpine Dam in the Ohio River near Louisville.

The accident occurred shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday when a vessel towing 11 barges hit a structure at the entrance to the Portland Canal in the Ohio River. All but one of the barges broke free. No injuries have been reported.

Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet says the cargo included soy, corn and around 1,400 tons of methanol, an industrial chemical that can be poisonous. There’s no evidence the tank carrying the chemicals has been breached.

Cabinet Spokesperson John Mura says there’s no impact to Louisville’s water. The water intakes for Louisville Water Company are upriver from the accident, so it will not affect the city’s water.

“Safety is the top concern – safety of the public and first responder personnel,” Mura said. “There is currently no impact to Louisville Water’s water intake or water quality. The river waterway is open through the use of the local vessel traffic services.”

The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley and the Louisville Metro Government Emergency Management Agency have set up a unified command structure to manage the incident. The state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet is currently monitoring water quality.

Henderson Water Utility Director Kevin Roberts told LPM News they are coordinating with officials and are prepared in the event of a chemical release. The water utility regularly uses activated carbon to treat chemicals that can be present in the raw water and can shut off the city’s intake if necessary.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it’s working with the U.S. Coast Guard, navigation industry and marine surveyors to start recovering the remaining barges.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Energy & Environment reporter at Louisville Public Media. He is dedicated to covering climate change and environmental issues across Kentucky.
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