Lightering operations began over the weekend for the sunken tanker barge Argo in Lake Erie in the U.S. The barge, which sank in a storm in 1937, was discovered to be leaking in October.
The first of Argo’s eight tanks are currently being tapped and offloaded. The product will be pumped into a specialized container on a work barge where it will be run through a series of carbon filters to separate and remove the flammable vapors from the product.
An initial investigation earlier in November showed the tank contained benzene with some toluene, xylene and trace elements of petroleum. Because these materials are not typically shipped on the Great Lakes, the proper equipment to remove it had not been available in the region.
The tank’s contents will again be sampled to gain a better understanding of the contents of Argo’s hold.
As weather allows, responders will continue salvage operations one tank at a time.
The Unified Command, consisting of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Ohio EPA, has spill response equipment on standby and various experts involved in the response are in place to mitigate any possible threats. As an additional precautionary measure, the safety zone around the barge remains at a one nautical mile radius directly above the barge’s location at the bottom of Lake Erie.