(Updates with Coast Guard completing shoreline assessment)
By Karl Plume
May 3 The U.S. Coast Guard reopened a stretch of
the Mississippi River near Hartford, Illinois early on Friday as
the waterway was deemed safe for navigation following a vessel
accident and oil spill near the confluence with the Missouri
The river had been closed from mile markers 194 to 198 after
a towboat struck an area where barges were tied up along the
shore at 12:57 a.m. CDT (0557 GMT) and several barges broke
loose, colliding with other facilities and docks, the Coast
They also struck a barge that was being loaded with crude
oil, and about 300 gallons (1,100 liters) were spilled into the
All of the breakaway vessels were secured and the river
reopened at 2:13 a.m.
The Coast Guard completed an assessment by Friday afternoon
that found no evidence of spilled oil along the shoreline, but
harbor patrols will continue to monitor for any environmental
effect, Coast Guard spokesman Colin Fogarty said.
"If we do discover that there are environmental impacts, it
is likely the Coast Guard would shut down a section of the river
to facilitate safe removal of the oil and rehabilitation of the
area," he said.
Finding 300 gallons of crude oil in the flood-swollen river
may prove difficult as currents in the area are about twice as
strong as normal.
Cleanup crews are on standby, Fogarty said.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Gerald E.
McCormick and Dale Hudson)