The U. S. Coast Guard and Washington State Department of Ecology responded Sunday afternoon at approximately 1:15 p.m. to reports of a barge loaded with stacks of crushed cars listing in Commencement Bay near Tacoma and possibly taking on water.
Schnitzer Steel, which owns items on the barge, hired Global Salvage and Diving to inspect the Canadian 250-foot Amix Marine Services barge’s hull. Divers located a crack in the hull and were successful in making repairs and stabilizing the barge.
The Coast Guard launched a 25-foot response boat crew from Seattle to investigate, while the Department of Ecology dispatched spill responders to the area. The Coast Guard boat arrived on scene with a Tacoma Fire Department boat to find the barge listing. An undetermined number of cars fell into the water, causing oil sheen. The barge reportedly contains no pollutants and the crushed cars were reportedly drained of all fluids prior to being crushed and loaded. Even though the cars have been drained of fluids, residual amounts of oil are present in the vehicles, according to Coast Guard spokesperson Nate Littlejohn.
The Coast Guard established a 250-yard safety zone around the barge. A Coast Guard helicopter crew from Port Angeles conducted an overflight just before nightfall Sunday and reported a light sheen in the vicinity of the barge.
The Coast Guard and Washington Department of Ecology will continue to work with the Canadian barge owner and contractors to mitigate any pollution threats or navigational hazards associated with the barge, according to Littlejohn.