Dredge sinks and tugboat capsizes in Lake Huron incident

JULY 19, 2012 —The Coast Guard is coordinating the response to a sunken dredge and capsized tugboat in lower Lake Huron. A reported 500-foot sheen has not expanded.

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.

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.

MCM Marine, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., owns both vessels, and has reported that the tugboat has 300 gallons of diesel fuel aboard and the barge has 1,500 gallons aboard along with a minor amount of lube oil associated with dredge equipment.

Emergency agencies responding to the scene have deployed more than 1,400-feet of boom, a temporary barrier used to contain a spill.

"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 cleanup crews are currently experiencing some delays due to on-scene weather, reported as 2- to 4-foot seas, 15- to 20-knot winds and heavy rain.

The cause of the accident is unknown, and the Coast Guard is investigating.