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., the motor vessel Arthur J., a 110-foot dredge, sank and the motor vessel Madison, a 38-foot tugboat, capsized in lower Lake Huron. 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. Containment boom has been deployed around the vessels to minimize further environmental impact.
The owner is cooperating with the Coast Guard and has contracted Michigan Pollution Control to conduct cleanup operations. The Coast Guard will be monitoring the cleanup operations to ensure they are conducted safely and in compliance with federal regulations.
The Coast Guard has established a 100-yard safety zone and is broadcasting a safety marine information broadcast to mariners in the area. The Coast Guard has notified the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada and St. Clair County Emergency Management. Involved agencies have established a command post at Coast Guard Station Port Huron, Mich.
The vessels remain partially submerged in 22 feet of water but are outside the shipping channel, so commercial shipping has not been affected. However, any mariners in the area should proceed with caution.
“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.”
The cause of the accident is unknown, and the Coast Guard is investigating.
Dredging Today Staff, July 20, 2012; Image: U.S. Coast Guard, PORT HURON STATION