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A barge carrying 1,400 metric tons of methanol from a ship broke up in Kentucky

A late-night collision on the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky broke free of numerous barge vessels – including one carrying 1,400 metric tons of methanol.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the “navigation accident” occurred at 2 a.m. Tuesday in the lock chamber at the McAlpine Locks and Dam on the Ohio River. The vessel, which was carrying 11 barges carrying a variety of other products including soybeans and corn, collided with what Louisville Metro Emergency Services described as a “fixed structure at the entrance to the Portland Canal” near the dam.

No injuries were reported, but when the ship struck the structure, 10 of the 11 barges were torn from the ship. Of those, the Corps said three were “pinned” to the bottom of the embankment and one was pinned against the piers of the Louisville and Indiana Bridge. The barge carrying the methanol was grounded and “partially submerged,” according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Methanol is a “toxic alcohol” substance used in a variety of industries, including pesticides and alternative fuels. Methanol poses an explosion risk in some cases, such as when methanol vapor mixes with air and when it ends up in sewers, according to the CDC.

The Cabinet was among the agencies that sent teams to assist in the cleanup.

Our Emergency Response Team (ERT) is currently responding to a barge incident this morning in Ohio…

Posted by Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet on Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Louisville’s emergency services agency said in an update Tuesday, “There is currently zero evidence of a tank breach or any leaks,” and air and water monitoring resources are in place. … There is currently no impact on Louisville’s water intake or water quality. River waterways are opened up through the use of local boat traffic services.”

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Lee Cohen


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