Waterway Disaster Response Plans


COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Paint thinner being shipped on a waterway?

It sounds risky, but experts say it’s the most efficient way to deliver items in large quantities.

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However, even efficiency has its risks.

If a barge has a spill, everything from closing the river to evacuation orders is always on the table.

For every situation, there is a response.

“If you have a lot of floodwaters and the waters are moving fast, there’s always a potential for that to happen,” said Tenn-Tom Waterway Administrator, Mitch Mays.

Using rivers to transport goods is efficient and the prime choice for companies.

“We still move a lot of coal on the waterway, fuels, distillates, paint thinner in this situation, aggregates, grains, and things like that,” said Mays.

Even though it’s one of the safest ways to ship, something always go wrong.

The result of Sunday’s loose barge incident is leaving waterway workers breathing a sigh of relief.

“The water was moving pretty swift, but we are grateful and thankful that we had the sandbar there that caught it,” said Operations Manager of Tenn-Tom Army Corps of Engineers, Randy Comer.

“There was no spill; there was nothing that happened. It’s just that it got caught on the shoal,” added Mays.

Luck may not always be on the waterway’s side.

That’s when the Army Corps of Engineers executes its response plan.

“In that situation, most likely, the waterway would shut down until it was contained or taken care of,” said Mays.

“It would be incident specific,” said Comer. “We would have the contact 911. It would be a general emergency response, just like if a truck were to overturn somewhere.”

Anytime water levels are climbing, people are urged to stay off the water and away from flood prone areas.

“Anytime, you know, we have flood situation like we have right now, where the waters are rising, the waters are very quick and fast, I would caution the public just to stay away from it,” said Mays.

Mays says the barge containing paint thinners is being pulled back safely to its coupling.