CLEVELAND -- The Coast Guard is coordinating the response to a sunken dredge and capsized tugboat in lower Lake Huron early Thursday morning.
There were no injuries reported, but a 500-foot diesel sheen has been reported. The Coast Guard was notified that at 4:35 a.m. Thursday, the motor vessel Arthur J, a 110-foot dredge, sank and the motor vessel Madison, a 38-foot tugboat, capsized in lower Lake Huron.
As of Friday morning, all fuel valves and vents on the Arthur J have been plugged.
The Arthur J has 10 vents to its fuel tank and responders were able to plug four of them early Thursday afternoon, but six remained opened until responders were able to plug them late Thursday night.
The impact of the shoreline has been minimal; however there is visible sheening along the shores of Lakeport, but there has been no report of a thick product wash ashore.
However, there is still a strong diesel odor in the air, so residents and visitors of the lower Lake Huron area are encouraged to avoid areas where there is an odor in the air. Those who live in the area should remain inside with doors and windows closed as much as possible.
Beaches from Blue Water Bridge north to Lakeport State Park remain closed according to the Michigan State Health Department.
The weather and lake conditions on Friday are not optimal for product clean up, but the clean-up efforts continue vigilantly. There has been no report of impacted wildlife.
The Captain of the Port located at Coast Guard Sector Detroit has not approved a salvage plan yet and will continue to work with MCM Marine, the responsible party and owners of both sunken vessels, to finalize a salvage plan as soon as possible.
The cause of the accident is unknown, and the Coast Guard is investigating.
For more information, contact the incident command post public information hotline at (810) 982-3910 or email the incident command at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The accident occurred five nautical miles north-northwest of the entrance to the St. Clair River, one nautical mile from the Michigan shoreline and four nautical from Canadian waters. Both vessels are owned by MCM Marine.
A Coast Guard response boatcrew from Station Port Huron arrived on scene, confirmed that everyone was accounted for and there were no injuries and commenced containing and retrieving debris from the vessels. Although the vessel can potentially carry 8,000 gallons of diesel, the owner reports that the dredge had between 1,500 and 2,000 gallons of #2 diesel aboard.
"The Coast Guard will continue to ensure the safety of responders and the public," said Lt. Justin Westmiller, public affairs officer at Coast Guard Sector Detroit. "Our other objectives are to initiate any appropriate actions to control the source and minimize further release, assess the trajectory of any hazardous materials in the water and identify any sensitive areas that need protecting, and keep the public informed as best we can."
What is dredging? According to a U.S. Army website, underwater excavation is called dredging. After the initial excavation needed to establish a channel, the periodic dredging that must occur is done to keep it clear and safe for navigation. This process is called maintenance dredging. Once sediments are dredged from the waterway, they are called dredged material.