About 100,000 gallons of oil-tainted water spilled Friday into a stream feeding the lush Atchafalaya Basin as a barge was being unloaded at a waste disposal site, authorities said.
The barge, carrying 900,000 gallons of wastewater from an Exxon plant in Houston, buckled in the middle after an estimated 280,000 gallons had been siphoned into tanker trucks, said spokesman Bobby Mayweather of GSX Land Treatment of White Castle."It looked like a giant had stepped on the barge smack in the middle," said State Police Lt. Ronnie Jones. "We had first thought a lot more had spilled, but it turns out that about 100,000 gallons seeped out."
Early estimates ranged from 180,000 to 400,000 gallons.
No one was injured. The waste, according to Exxon, was 90 percent water, 7 percent alcohol and 3 percent light oil, said Jones.
The spill occurred at a remote area about 35 miles southwest of Baton Rouge on the edge of the Atchafalaya Basin, a vast hardwood swamp and marshland that is a breeding ground for a variety of fish and wildlife.
Iberville Parish Sheriff Freddie Pitre said he believed the tanker truck crew had siphoned the waste from the front and rear ends of the 300-foot-long barge, leaving most of the weight in the middle.
"Oil-absorbing booms were in place shortly after the spill and we believe most of the waste was confined to the immediate area of Grand River," said Jones. "We may not know tomorrow or even the next day if we got it all because there is no visible slick."
Some of the waste could find its way into the basin, but the spill is no disaster, said Jones.