US Coast Guard shuts down shipping route on St. Mary's River due to oil spill

The incident was minor but it did affect transportation and environment.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Oil slick stock photomichaelbwatkins/iStock

On Thursday, the Coast Guard released a statement saying it was responding to an oil spill that originated from Algoma Steel in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario.

A 5,300-gallon gear oil spill 

"The Coast Guard received notification at 10:30 a.m. EST of a 5,300-gallon gear oil spill into the St. Marys River. Initial Coast Guard estimates show a sheen that covers an area from the steel mill all the way to the north side of Sugar Island. No injuries or deaths have been reported by Algoma Steel. The Coast Guard is requesting all traffic to stay clear of the impacted area," said the press release.

The Coast Guard further noted that more than 5,300 gallons (around 20,000 liters) of oil spilled, and it had established an incident command team to manage the U.S. response efforts. Captain Anthony Jones, Commander, Sector Sault Sainte Marie said, “We’re working in lock-step with our Canadian, American, and tribal partners to ensure the sanctity of our river.”

The organization added that Coast Guard pollution responders were monitoring the situation and would coordinate the containment with environmental clean-up organizations. The incident halted boat traffic between Lake Superior and Lake Huron for about three hours.

Because the event was a small spill, it did not make the news. This however does not mean it's not important. The majority of oil spills are small ones and collectively together they have a big impact.

More than 50 such spills in 2022 alone

So far, in 2022 alone, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recorded more than 50 such minor oil spills.

For now, Algoma Public Health has issued a warning to residents who obtain their water directly from the St. Mary’s River not to drink it and to avoid swimming, bathing, or recreating in the river. Residents were also instructed to keep pets away from the river.

Algoma Steel, the company responsible for the spill, issued the following statement to multiple news agencies: "A quantity of oil left our site early this morning and entered the adjacent waterway. The source of the spill has been safely contained. The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Spills Action Centre, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the City of Sault Ste. Marie have been notified and we are currently coordinating with officials, deploying equipment, resources, and personnel to mitigate any possible impact to the environment."

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Despite the firm claiming that the incident has been safely contained, the spill will still affect local fish and birds. And that is something to be concerned with. Perhaps what the company should be focusing on is how to avoid such future incidents.

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