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Barge North Cape; Narragansett, Rhode Island

Narragansett, Rhode Island | 1996-Jan-19

Initial Notification: At 1430 Eastern Standard Time (EST) on January 19, 1996, MSO Providence received a call from Station Castle Hill that the tug Scandia was on fire. The tug Scandia was located some three miles south and west of Point Judith, Rhode Island towing the barge North Cape, which was carrying 94,000 barrels of #2 home heating fuel Weather was severe with sustained winds of more than 40 knots from the south-southeast and forecast to increase. The tug Scandia was abandoned and USCG Search and Rescue teams were dispatched to assist the crew. At approximately 2000 EST, a USCG helicopter reported that the barge North Cape was aground on Nebraska Shoals, directly adjacent to the Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge, owned and operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The helicopter further reported that the barge was releasing oil. The barge North Cape spilled oil in two separate releases. The first, released during the height of the initial storm, was 700,000 gallons and the second, less than a day later, was 125,000 gallons. The combination of the type of oil released and the energy of the storm caused great dispersion into the water column. As a result, in the days following the spill, great numbers of shellfish (mostly bivalves and juvenile lobsters) washed ashore. Subsequently, the Rhode Island Department of Health closed more than 200 square miles of commercial fishery in the area of the spill. This closure was coordinated with the EPA Region One and with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which closed federal fishing grounds using the Magnuson Act. This is the first time federal fisheries have been closed due to oil contamination. The emergency phase of the response lasted seven days and the on-scene command post was demobilized following the removal of the barge North Cape from the beach. Active USCG spill response and assessment continued from the MSO, including re-survey of key impacted recreational and endangered piping plover nesting beaches. The full re-opening of the Rhode Island fishery was not complete until the middle of June. Organoleptic panels were established to certify that seafood, lobsters, and clams, in particular, were marketable. USCG district 1. Keyword: endangered species, ARTES.

Incident Details
Primary threat:Oil
Products of concern:Number 2 fuel/home heating oil
Total amount at risk of spill: 825,000 gallons
Latitude (approximate): 41° 22.18′ North
Longitude (approximate): 71° 34.40′ West