NEWPORT—A barge responsible for repairs to the Pell Bridge sank between Saturday evening and Sunday at noon during the past weekend’s nor’ easter. The barge, hired by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA), was re-painting and conducting repairs to the steel structure of the bridge.
The United States Coast Guard, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), Clean Harbors, Newport Harbormaster’s Office and the Newport Navy Base were all notified of the incident.
RITBA officials visually inspected Pell Bridge and determined that the barge did not strike the bridge or do any damage. Divers were also down inspecting the barge, resting in 60 to 70 feet of water, and video-taping any significant damage, of which they have currently found none.
Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. of Prior Lake, Minnesota, owners of the barge, was hired by RITBA to direct the repair work on the Pell Bridge. In anticipation of the storm, officials from the contractor removed hazardous materials, waste products and painting supplies on Wednesday. The barge was also secured with four anchors.
“We are making arrangements with our insurance agency and the salvage company, so we hope to have everything salvaged and back on track by the middle of next week,” said Gail Svoboda, President of Abhe & Svoboda, Inc.
The barge contains 2,400 gallons of diesel fuel held in three double-walled tanks, although a minor oil sheen has been detected near the sunken vessel. The barge also holds a generator and three compressors. Svoboda said that, although a bit of fuel might escape from the air compressors, the contractor was well prepared with boats to skim oil if it does come to the surface. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, as of Monday afternoon, did not expect a significant problem with the diesel fuel potentially leaking into the bay.
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