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Barge accident dumps oil into the Mississippi River

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Barge and tanker transport needs to be added to the debate on which method of transporting oil is the safest to people and the environment.

Another barge accident polluted the Mississippi River on Saturday with an as-yet unknown amount of oil that leaked into a 65-mile area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, according to a report in The Daily Beast.

The barge was being pushed by a tugboat when the two collided with another tugboat causing the spill and closing the Port of New Orleans in order to prevent other vessels from being contaminated.

Drinking water intakes from the river were closed as a precaution.

"The water supply in St. Charles Parish remains safe," parish officials said in a news release Sunday afternoon.

The Washington Post reported that the closure has affected 26 vessels so far, with 16 set to navigate downriver and 10 to go upriver.

Saturday’s event isn’t the first time barge accidents have leaked oil into the Mississippi River.

In January of 2013 an oil barge crashed into a bridge on the busy waterway causing it to leak approximately 668,000 gallons of light crude into the water, prompting the Coast Guard to close the river for an 8 mile stretch.

A few weeks later, another barge sprung a leak and needed to have its oil transferred to another barge, but the operation couldn’t proceed during the night, so oil flowed unhindered for the better part of the evening, with approximately 7,000 gallons of oil escaping into the water.

In February, 2012, two oil tankers collided, spilling oil into the Mississippi.

Moreover, closing ports and waterways in New Orleans has been very costly for the state and the vessels involved.

In addition, here is just a partial list of oil spills into US waterways in recent years as found in a Huffington Post report:

Yellowstone River Spill, Montana - July 2011. A pipeline ruptured beneath Yellowstone river leaking 63,000 into the water sending an oil sheen 25 miles downstream.

Mayflower, Arkansas Pipeline Rupture - March 2013. ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured spilling 210,000 gallons of Canadian tar sands crude into the residential area of Mayflower Arkansas endangering nearby waterways.

Red Butte Creek Spill, Utah - June 2010. A Chevron pipeline leaked nearly 33,000 gallons of oil into the creek and endangering the Great Salt Lake region.

Kalamazoo River Spill, Michigan - July 2010. A pipeline owned by Enbridge leaked 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River, according to an Enbridge estimate, but EPA officials said over 1.1 million gallons of oil were recovered.

Writing last fall in a report published by the Christian Science Monitor, Rory Johnson maintains that train transport is the safest to people, but pipeline is the worst for the environment, because it has a “higher leak-rate.”

Barge transport needs to be included in the debate on which method is best, but none of them will ever be fail-proof against potential threat of explosions that kill people or the potential for massive environmental disasters.

As recent attention has been focused on whether or not President Barack Obama will give a green light to the Keystone XL pipeline, environmentalists maintain the US should be investing more in sustainable, renewable sources of energy, because wind, solar and rigorous conservation efforts don’t add to climate change, destroy ecosystems or imperil human beings.

Officials are still working on clean-up operations after the Mississippi River barge spill.

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