Savannah River Partially Opened - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/17/06

Savannah River Partially Opened

A thick, black, oily coating along the Savannah River has had crews on clean-up duty since early Monday morning.

The Coast Guard isn't entirely sure how much they're dealing with, because they don't know where it came from, but they think it's at least 5,000 gallons and it's spread over some 12 miles.

Up and down the river, there's the unmistakable sheen of oil.

When WTOC photographer Travis Washington hopped on a Coast Guard boat to tour the spill, it didn't take long to see how widespread this slick had gotten: with marshy areas and rocky riverbanks completely coated.

The good news is the leak appears to have stopped, despite the fact the Coast Guard still isn't sure what the source was.

"There appears to be no more leaking of oil from anywhere," explains Coast Guard Commander Dave Murk. "So we think we've narrowed it down. What's on the river is on the river, and that's what we'll have to deal with."

With cleanup efforts just getting started, the changing tides have made it tough to gauge exactly what the final impact will be.

Martin Liebschmer is the site manager at Fort Jackson. He says, "When the tide goes out it'll be coming this way, and they just wanted to give us a heads up and let us know because we do have a lot of visitors and safety's an issue."

The coast guard has laid out close to 5,000 feet of hard boom, much of which is already as covered in oil as the shoreline.

Murk says "The areas that you can really clean up is where it's pooled and again, that's what we're trying to do with deflecting, booming, and trying to contain it and get it pooled."

The river opened to commercial river traffic around 8:00 PM Monday, but ships are being kept to the bare minimum speed and are being held to one way.

So far the Coast Guard hasn't had any reports of fish kills or wildlife coated in oil, but they are asking people to be on the lookout for that.

If you've seen any problems with wildlife, please call (912) 652-4181.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

 

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