NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — The US Coast Guard dispatched emergency teams Tuesday after a boat crashed into an oil well off the coast of New Orleans, spilling crude into the Gulf of Mexico.
The well, located about 65 miles (104 kilometers) south of New Orleans, was ruptured when it was struck by a dredge barge called Captain Buford pulled by a tug, Pere Ana C.
Reports of a giant fountain of oil were downplayed by US authorities who said only a light sheen was visible on the surface, some six feet (1.8 meters) above the damaged wellhead.
Unrelated to the massive gusher recently capped by BP deep down on the seabed, the incident did occur in a nearby part of the Gulf of Mexico and clean-up vessels were redeployed to surround it with 6,000 feet of boom.
“There is some vapor emanating and we have an overhead picture that shows probably a combination of gas and water vapor and so forth coming to the surface plus a light sheen,” said US spill chief Thad Allen.
“One of the positive things I suppose about having this response going on is we have a significant amount of resources… there’s skimming equipment close by and booming equipment,” he added.
A strike Coast Guard team from Mobile, Alabama had been dispatched by boat to the scene as well as a helicopter from New Orleans with a marine pollution investigator on board.
“There have been reports of oil from the elision and we are investigating those reports to mitigate any environmental concerns,” petty officer William Colclough, a Coast Guard spokesman, told AFP.
“The oil spill liability trust fund has been enacted to provide monetary support for any clean-up operation.”
The government’s on-scene spill coordinator for Louisiana, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft was also on an overflight of the new spill, along with state governor Bobby Jindal.