Environment

A seventh barge has sunk in the Ohio River a week after a tugboat carrying coal to Trimble County hit the 2nd Street Bridge.

The incident began more than a week ago after 15 barges loaded with coal broke free from a tug boat just after 8 p.m. on Christmas Day.

The U.S. Coast Guard says the vessel’s owner, Tennessee Valley Towing, is sending in salvage teams that are expected to arrive Wednesday night.

“The salvage equipment team is already en route and should arrive on scene as early as this evening,” Metz said.

The dam has not sustained any damage and the coal is likely not an environmental hazard, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Regardless, cities that pull their drinking water from the river have been notified by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.

Of the 15 coal barges, six were recovered, seven are at the bottom of the Ohio and another two are still floating, but pinned against the dam. Each barge has the capacity to hold between 1,500 and 1,800 tons of coal.

Recovery crews have so far been unable to reach the remaining floating barges because of where they’re positioned, Metz said.

River levels have fluctuated all weekend, compounding challenges for recovery teams. Just in the last 24 hours, the river has risen nearly a foot.

“Each day the conditions change and we need to re-calibrate for safety and make those determinations each day to make sure the operation is safe,” he said.

Metz said the responsible party usually pays for the salvage operation; in this case, he said it’s likely that will be Tennessee Valley Towing.

The Ohio River from Twelve Mile Island to McAlpine Lock and Dam remains open to vessel traffic during daylight hours.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.