Barge Ruptures Gas Line; Winds Stave Off Blast Peril

From Associated Press

A natural gas line was ruptured early Saturday by a barge trying to dock in a waterway known as the Arthur Kill, raising fears of an explosion off Staten Island before winds dispersed the gas, authorities said.

The barge, owned by the Bouchard Co., was being pushed by a tugboat into a Staten Island terminal when its rudder hooked the pipe in about 25 feet of water, Coast Guard Petty Officer Howard Holmes said.

The broken 16-inch main sent an unknown amount of gas into the air about 50 feet off the shoreline, creating the possibility of an explosion, Holmes said. The city's Fire Department was called in case the leak caused a fire, he said.

But the line was turned off, and stiff winds dispersed the gas without incident, authorities said. The rupture did force a shutdown of a section of the Arthur Kill for 7 1/2 hours, Holmes said.

There were no injuries or evacuations, authorities said.

The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the leak, which was too minor to affect the environment, said Steven Whinham, a Coast Guard marine science technician.

The Arthur Kill, a major route for barge and ship traffic in a heavily industrialized area, has been the site of several major oil spills this year.

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