Oil Spill Closes Waterways - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/17/06

Oil Spill Closes Waterways

Image of the oil spill from Coast Guard video. Image of the oil spill from Coast Guard video.

Twelve miles of the Savannah River were closed down today after an early-morning oil spill. It happened near Elba Island around 7am. Chatham County officials say the thick, black oil has spread as far east as Tybee Island.

The spill is being estimated at about 5,000 gallons. The Coast Guard says the bulk of the oil spill has been contained.

There was heavy soiling along the shoreline from Elba Island, near Southern LNG all the way east to jetties along the southern channel of the Savannah. The waterways and portions of the port have been closed down, including the Intracoastal Waterway.

While environmental cleanup crews were on the scene, local communities were told about how they may be affected by the spill.

From Fort Jackson, you wouldn't know anything was wrong along the southern channel of the river. "Something spilled into the Savannah River, the tides go out, it could come this way," said fort manager Martin Liebschner.

He knows something is wrong now. The US Coast Guard shut 12 miles of the Savannah River down and called the fort. "My main concern is securing the safety of the visitors and workers at the fort," he said.

Chatham County Commission chairman Pete Liakakis was given up-to-the-minute updates by the Chatham Emergency Management Agency. He says he remembers oil spills in the past, but each situation is different. "It's our responsibility to let Tybee and other communities know what to do in the case of a spill," he said. 

"We do have a lot of visitors here, and safety is a key," said Fort Jackson's Liebschner. "And I appreciate their kindness in letting us know."

Coast Guard officials say the tide change has pushed some residue from the oil spill back west, reaching as far as the Savannah Marriot.

So far, there are no reports of wildlife casualties, but business will remain at a standstill. The waterways and ports could be closed to commercial traffic for as long as 24 hours, maybe longer.

The Coast Guard says it does not have a vessel, a facility or anything it can link to the spill. They do believe it came from some sort of tanker, but their investigation is ongoing.

If you've seen any wildlife effected by the spill, please contact the Coast Guard at (912) 652-4181.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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