Thousands of gallons of gasoline spilled from a tank barge into New Haven Harbor Saturday morning, but officials said the effect on the local environment and economy will be negligible.
Although the cause of the accident has not yet been determined, preliminary estimates from the tank barge state that 2,000 to 4,000 gallons were leaked into the New Haven Harbor while it was unloading gasoline into Motiva Terminal, U.S. Coast Guard Marine Science Technician Mark O’Brien said.
Port operators first discovered the leak at approximately 5 a.m. Saturday when they smelled gasoline vapors and saw bubbling in the water, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. In accordance with state regulations, the Energy 5501 tank barge already had a containment boom in place when it started unloading, but the New Haven Fire Department deployed additional booms to further contain the spill. The booms were later removed at 7:20 a.m. to prevent an explosion, O’Brien said.
“What was spilled was allowed to evaporate,” O’Brien said. “The fire department [chose] to remove the booms so there would be no danger of explosion, and what clean up was necessary was done.”
The vessel was temporarily repaired in New Haven Harbor and reached New York City for full repairs Sunday, O’Brien said. The remaining gasoline was transferred to the containers in the port and environmental impact crews were brought in to assess the impact, he said.
O’Brien said the cause of the incident is being examined by officials from the Coast Guard, State Department of Environmental Protection, and Hornbeck Offshore Services, the company that owns the tank barge.
Dennis Schain, a spokesperson for the State Department of Environmental Protection, said the spill should have little effect on the local environment.
“The kind of fuel was a gasoline and it does evaporate quickly,” Schain said. “As a result, we believe there should not be a significant impact on wildlife, aquatic life, habitat areas, water quality or air quality.”
An environmental contractor was brought in, and Department of Environmental Protection staff were on hand to help coordinate the efforts, Schain said. He said the clean-up process was completed by Saturday night.
New Haven Deputy Director of Economic Development Tony Bialecki said he does not expect the accident to have a significant effect on the local economy.
“It’s really a drop in the bucket compared to other possible things that could happen with gas prices,” Bialecki said.
The Coast Guard dispatched a boat to help guide vessels around the spill Saturday and deployed a helicopter for shoreline assessment, the statement said.