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Mississippi River closed for 65 miles after oil spill

NEW ORLEANS — 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 after the collision, which happened Saturday afternoon near Vacherie, 47 miles west of New Orleans by land, Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough said.

No one was hurt and all barges were secured, Colclough said.

By late Sunday afternoon, 16 vessels were waiting to go downriver and 10 vessels were waiting in an upriver queue, he said. He could not estimate when the river would reopen. The cause of the collision was under investigation.

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.

The barge, one of two loaded with light crude and being pushed by the Hannah C. Settoon, hit the Lindsay Ann Erickson, which was pushing grain barges, Colclough said.

He said the rest of the oil on the damaged barge had been pumped into another barge by early Sunday.

He did not know whether the Lindsay Ann Erickson was damaged.

An online Coast Guard database shows that the 84.5-foot-long Hannah C. Settoon was built in 2010 and is owned by Settoon Towing of Pierre Part, La. The Lindsay Ann Erickson, built in 1982, is 168 feet long and owned by General Electric Capital Corp. of Irving, Texas.

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