Barge carrying petroleum byproduct
explodes on Chicago canal
Published in the Union Tribune (San Diego) January 19th,
CHICAGO – Authorities searched Wednesday for a man believed
to be missing after a barge carrying thousands of gallons
of a gooey petroleum byproduct exploded, caught fire and
then sank in a ship canal.
The man was believed to have been working on the vessel
when it burst into flames in the Chicago Sanitary and
Ship Canal on the city's southwest side, said Mac Meade,
a spokesman for the Coast Guard in Chicago. The search
was suspended late Wednesday night and was scheduled to
resume Thursday morning.
A boiler on the barge apparently exploded, igniting the
clarified slurry oil, which is a byproduct created when
refining petroleum, said Illinois Environmental Protection
Agency spokeswoman Maggie Carson. She said initial estimates
indicate the barge was carrying about 13,000 barrels,
or more than 500,000 gallons, of it.
"This is a huge volume of petroleum byproduct,"
IEPA investigators went to the site of the explosion
and crews tried Wednesday night to determine how much
of the substance might have spilled into the 105-year-old
canal, which serves as a link between the Great Lakes
and the Mississippi River.
Clarified slurry oil normally has the consistency of
honey and becomes thicker in cold water, which could lessen
any potential environmental damage, Carson said.
"When a substance is more liquid it spreads farther,"
she said. "When it congeals or hardens it's easier
to gather and remove. It doesn't mean there won't be any
problems, but this lends itself to ease in removal."
She said Egan Marine Corp., operated the barge and the
company would be responsible for cleaning up any environmental
A woman who answered the phone at the company located
in the Chicago suburb of Lemont said they would have no