Transportation
5:37 pm
Thu October 6, 2011

Barge Sinks on Ohio, Cleanup Continues

A barge carrying sand and gravel sank on the Ohio River Wednesday night. Crews are continuing their attempt to salvage both the cargo and the vessel itself. The river's traffic routine is returning to normality.

Emsworth Lock and Dam lock master Don Ziler said the vessel was part of a group of barges carried by a tow boat. Ziler said the tow was "below the lock, waiting for another tow to pass it" when the problem began.

"Still about a mile downstream of the lock, the one barge started taking water on," said Ziler. "They couldn't keep up with it with pumps, so they untied from that [barge] and moved the rest of the tow off to the side."

Officials from the Waterways Association of Pittsburgh have set up a cue to manage traffic through Emsworth. Ziler said only three vessels were delayed when the Coast Guard ordered a halt to traffic Wednesday night.

As of Thursday afternoon, crews remained on the scene to dredge up the sand and gravel lost in the wreck. Ziler said he was thankful the barge wasn't carrying anything that would harm the river or its ecosystem.

Ziler said in the meantime, a pair of cranes was ordered to help bring up the barge.

"What they'll do is take a crane and put it on each end of the barge, and then they'll have to send dive teams down, and they'll have to sling the sunken barge with cables and big clevises," said Ziler. "Once they get that done, then they'll start raising the barge up. Once it breaks the top of the water, they'll set pumps in the cargo hold, start them up, and pump the water out."

Ziler said it's unclear how the barge started taking on water, but inspectors will determine whether it's salvageable over the next few days. Ziler said he expects the entire salvage process to be finished Friday or Saturday.