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Lake Huron: Barge Sinks Off Michigan Coast, Spills Diesel Fuel

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LAKE HURON BARGE
Parts of the Arthur J., a 110-foot commercial dredge, can still be seen above the waters of lower Lake Huron after it sank, July 19, 2012. The Coast Guard is coordinating the response in order to ensure the safety of responders and the public, control the source of diesel fuel spilled, and minimize any further release. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station Port Huron, Mich. | Station Port Huron / U.S. Coast Guard

LAKEPORT, Mich. — Diesel fuel from a barge that sank in stormy Lake Huron has reached the Michigan shoreline, the U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday evening.

A 110-foot dredging barge sank early Thursday, and the tug pushing it overturned, spilling an unknown amount of diesel fuel.

No injuries were been reported.

The Coast Guard released photos Thursday evening showing a sheen from the spill on the shore near Lakeport State Beach, about 65 miles northeast of Detroit.

"The cleanup crews are currently experiencing some delays due to on-scene weather, reported as 2- to 4-foot seas, 15- to 20-knot winds and heavy rain," the agency said in a statement.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the Arthur J. to sink around 4:35 a.m., the U.S. Coast Guard said. The commercial vessel went down near the southern end of the lake, just over a mile from the Michigan coast and about 65 miles northeast of Detroit.

A crew from the Coast Guard's Port Huron station accounted for everyone who had been aboard the two vessels, said Chief Petty Officer Kyle Niemi, of the Cleveland district office.

The dredge could carry up to 8,000 gallons of fuel, but the owner said it only had about 1,500 gallons when it sank, along with "a minor amount" of lubricating oil associated with dredge equipment, the Coast Guard said. The tugboat had about 300 gallons of diesel.

The Coast Guard, St. Clair County's hazardous materials team and other agencies placed more than 1,400 feet of containment boom on the water to limit the fuel's spread, said Petty Officer Lauren Laughlin.

MCM Marine Inc., based in Sault Ste. Marie, owns the dredge and the 38-foot tug Madison. The company has hired a contractor to handle the cleanup, which the Coast Guard will monitor to ensure federal regulations are followed.

"We want to do everything we can to make things right and try to get our boats back," said Tom Spencer, accountant for MCM. He said he didn't know what caused the sinking but said the weather on the lake was "really nasty."

"We're very grateful our crew is OK. That's the most important thing," Spencer said.

Both vessels were partially submerged in 22 feet of water nearly six miles north of the entrance to the St. Clair River, which links lakes Huron and Erie. Commercial traffic had not been affected because the stricken craft are outside the shipping channel, but the Coast Guard advised mariners in the area to be cautious.

"The Coast Guard will continue to ensure the safety of responders and the public," said Lt. Justin Westmiller, spokesman for the Detroit office.

One of Detroit's municipal water intake pipes is in the "general vicinity" of the spill, but there is no immediate danger that fuel will be drawn into the pipe, said Brad Wurfel, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He said the department had contacted city water officials as a precaution.

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Barge Sinks in Lake Huron, Spilling Diesel Fuel - ABC News

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