Oil Spill Closes Port Of Catoosa

Wednesday, December 17th 2008, 11:38 am
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, News On 6

CATOOSA, OK -- The Port of Catoosa is cleaning up what officials believe is the largest oil spill in its history. Forty barrels of crude poured into the navigation channel early Tuesday.

The Port says the spill is contained, but until the oil is cleaned up, barges will not be allowed to enter the port.

From the air on Wednesday, the oil was still visible on the surface of the Port's navigation channel. It leaked into the water from an oil terminal a day earlier.

The cause of the leak is still under investigation.

"Very unfortunate, but I'm really proud of everyone including the Coast Guard.  They jumped on this, got it under control, and personally I think we'll be in good shape," said Port Director Bob Portiss.

Crews are using 'containment booms' to make sure the oil doesn't spread to the Arkansas River. But while the cleanup is underway, no barges will be allowed in.

Portiss says that luckily, the port isn't expecting many over the next few days.

"So we've got some barges coming, but they're downstream right now.  I think the impact will be negligible, at least I hope so," said Portiss.

Fortunately, spills like this are not something the Port has much experience with.

Oil spills are incredibly rare there.  In fact, officials believe this one may actually be the worst they've ever had since the Port of Catoosa opened nearly 40 years ago.

"This is the first time this has occurred, and like I said, I hope it's the last one, and it could have been worse.  That's always the case I guess, it could have been worse," said Portiss.

Portiss says it could have been worse for the channel as well. After the cleanup is complete, damage to the environment is expected to be minimal.

The Coast Guard has a pollution response team there to make sure everything goes according to plan.