DES MOINES - Officials were assessing the environmental damage Tuesday after a towboat carrying 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel and oil sank in the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa, closing the river to barge traffic.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other organizations don't yet know what the towboat struck before it began sinking around 4:30 p.m. Monday. Nine crew members safely escaped.
The river cannot be opened to traffic until the cause of the accident is determined and safe navigation is ensured, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. j.g. Colin Fogerty said in a phone interview from LeClaire.
Officials inspect the towboat Stephen L. Colby Tuesday, which sank Monday on the Mississippi River waterfront in LeClaire, after striking a submerged object. Officials closed the river to barge traffic and are assessing environmental damage from the 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel and oil that leaked into the water. Nine crew members safely escaped.
The boat is still leaking diesel fuel and oil, and the smell of diesel fuel lingers, though air monitors show it's safe to breathe in the area, Fogerty said.
"It's anyone's best guess how much oil has actually leaked into the water," he said, noting that booms appear to be containing and collecting 90 percent of what's been spilled. "That being said, right now we're dealing with hundreds of gallons as opposed to thousands of gallons."
Officials are developing a plan to raise the boat, named the Stephen L. Colby, that's stranded in about 14 feet of water and pushed up against the riverbank. The upper portion of the boat's superstructure is still visible.
The boat was built in 1967 and is 154 feet long and 40 feet wide. It's owned by Paducah, Ky.-based Marquette Transportation Co. A spokeswoman declined to comment.