Barge hits well near Gulf, sends oil, gas spewing
2010-07-28 0:00

By Kevin McGill |

A barge slammed into an abandoned well in a coastal inlet early Tuesday, sending a shower of water, natural gas and oil spewing about 100 feet (30 metres) into the air.

Emergency officials said about 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) of containment boom was in place around the site in a lake just north of Barataria Bay, which has already been fouled by oil from the massive BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

While there was no estimate of how much oil was spewing Tuesday, officials said the mile-(two-kilometre) long slick it created was small compared with the Gulf spill.

The Coast Guard said the towboat Pere Ana C was pushing the barge on Mud Lake when it hit the wellhead about 1 a.m. No one was hurt.

The towboat captain told investigators the well was not lit as required, Coast Guard Capt. John Arenstam said.

The Coast Guard hired Wild Well Control Inc. to begin attempts to cap the well later Tuesday. Another contractor is handling cleanup.

The Coast Guard identified the well owner as Houston-based Cedyco Corp., but authorities said they had been unable to contact the company. Calls to Cedyco by The Associated Press were not returned Tuesday.

Deano Bonano, a Jefferson Parish emergency management official, said the spill was "miniscule" in comparison to the BP spill that has dumped millions of gallons (litres) of oil into the Gulf.

Bonano said the accident, which blocked traffic into Barataria Bay, would not stop attempts by cleanup crews to return to the Gulf after a weekend interruption from the remnants of Tropical Storm Bonnie.

He said no new oil has reached Barataria Bay from the BP spill in the last three weeks and said boats and equipment could be dispatched from other sites along the Louisiana coast, such as Grand Isle.

Mud Lake is at the northern approaches to Barataria Bay, an ecologically sensitive estuary south of New Orleans.

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