December 3, 2004

Did missing propeller puncture Athos I?

According to press reports, a 13.5 ft propeller that detached from a dredge on April 23 may have been what punctured the hull of the tanker Athos I, resulting in a major oil spill.

"We do not know where the propeller is," Merv Brokke, spokesman for the Philadelphia district of the Army Corps of Engineers is quoted as saying. "Could it have cause the accident? We don’t know."

The search for whatever object the tanker may have struck continues. Meantime, oil was detected on the bottom of the Delaware River in an area south of Little Tinicum Island, Pa., yesterday, according to an update on the Athos I spill issued by the Coast Guard.

NOAA placed oil snares in various points along the river, Wednesday. Next morning, one of those snares had evidence of oil. Three more sub-surface snares were then positioned near Mantua, N.J., Big Timber Creek and the Lester Power Plant. Plans are being developed on how best to recover any sunken oil.

Reports from oil spill observers indicate that oil has impacted approximately 70 miles of shoreline in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware stretching from the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge south to Pea Patch Island. The impacts are described as ranging from very light sheening to heavy oiling.

A helicopter over-flight Thursday morning did not report any floating oil below Pea Patch Island. Booming operations are currently in progress around the island.

The cause of the damage to the tanker Athos I is yet to be determined. The Captain of the Port of Philadelphia has issued an order that vessels with a draft greater than 34 feet may only move at high tide. Vessel traffic in the affected areas of the river is approved on a case-by-case basis.

Latest reports indicate:

94,000 feet of spill-control boom has been placed around the vessel and along parts of the river to protect sensitive tributaries and marshland from exposure to the oil.

There are more than 1,000 people working along the water and in the command post. Plans are in place to call in additional people to work in the cleanup along the river.

Wildlife rehabilitation experts report 76 birds have been captured, 46 have been cleaned and 36 deceased. The Coast Guard asks that the public not attempt to handle or clean affected wildlife.

Fuel transfer operations on the Athos I resumed yesterday after a halt Wednesday due to weather conditions.

Important Phone Numbers:

To report areas affected by oil from the ATHOS I incident, please call 267-765-3439.

To report animals affected by the spill, please call the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at 215-365-1558.

Volunteers who have specialized training handling oiled and injured wildlife can contact Julie Bartley at Tri-State Bird Rescue 302-737-9543, ext. 102. Please do not use this number to report oiled wildlife.

Owners of vessels that may have been oiled, or that have a financial claim, contact 866-401-0353

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