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Barge spills diesel fuel into Lake Michigan waterway Sunday night

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Business, Environment, Statewide News, Transportation
A loader scoops magnesite, a mineral commonly used in manufacturing, out of a barge in Burns Harbor. The barge responsible for the spill was carrying diesel fuel. (FILE PHOTO: Annie Ropeik/IPB News)

A barge spilled hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel into a Lake Michigan waterway Sunday night.

Workers on the barge were transferring fuel from a cargo tank to another fuel tank. The tank was overfilled and up to 800 gallons of fuel spilled into Burns Harbor.

Coast Guard Lt. Rachel Ault said staff on the vessel towing the barge quickly called in a company to contain the spill using booms and remove some of the fuel with vacuum trucks.

“Fortunately in this incident, because of the way the wind and the weather was pushing the spilled product, it pushed it to a natural collection point on the pier. And that allowed the company to be able to contain the majority of it and also retrieve almost all of it,” she said.

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The Coast Guard is working to make sure that the spill didn’t impact wildlife or the shoreline. The agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management are also investigating whether the company operating the barge should face fines or other enforcement actions for the spill.

Ault said the Coast Guard considers anything under 1,000 gallons a “minor spill.”

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.