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Oil closes New Orleans port, part of Miss. river

Published: Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 11:10 a.m. CDT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River, including the Port of New Orleans, was closed to all water traffic Sunday as crews cleaned up oil that spilled from a barge after it ran into a towboat between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the Coast Guard said.

Officials don’t know how much oil spilled, but only a sheen was reported on the river following the collision, which happened Saturday afternoon near Vacherie, 47 miles west of New Orleans by land, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough.

No one was hurt and all barges were secured, Colclough said. The cause of the collision was under investigation.

By late Sunday afternoon, 16 vessels were waiting to go downriver and 10 vessels were waiting in an upriver queue, Colclough said. He could not estimate when the river would reopen but said it was likely to remain closed overnight.

Public drinking water intakes on the river were closed as a precaution in nearby St. Charles Parish, officials said. “The water supply in St. Charles Parish remains safe,” parish officials said in a news release Sunday afternoon.

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