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Dredge Arthur J Sinks in Lake Huron

By David Murray

The 110-foot-long dredge Arthur J and the 38-foot-long tugboat Madison both belonging to MCM Marine sank in rough weather in 22 feet of water in Lake Huron in the early morning of July 19. The U.S. Coast Guard said it was coordinating the response to the two sunken vessels. The sinkings occurred about two nautical miles from the Michigan shoreline.

Both vessels were unmanned at the time according to the Detroit News. They were being towed by a third vessel the Drummond Islander II Darwin “Joe” McCoy the owner of MCM Marine based in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan told the Detroit News. He said crews were able to move some oil tanks from the two stricken vessels onto the Drummond Islander II.

No injuries were reported but a sheen of diesel fuel was reported. The dredge had about 1500 gallons of Number 2 diesel aboard while the tug had about 300 gallons the Coast Guard said.

Responding agencies at the Coast Guard’s command post at Coast Guard Station Port Huron Michigan included the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality the Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Canada and St. Clair County Emergency Management.

The Coast Guard contacted Michigan Pollution Control to conduct cleanup operations and 1400 feet of absorbent boom was placed around the vessels’ locations. By late afternoon the sheen was reported to be from one to two miles long and to have reached the shoreline. Coast Guard officials established a 100-yard safety zone around the site. The location was away from shipping channels.

Cleanup crews were running into continued rough weather including 2- to 4-foot seas and 15- to 20-knot winds along with heavy rain the Coast Guard said. McCoy told the Detroit News he did not believe human error played a role. “Most hydraulic dredges of this size are susceptible to waves larger than 4 or 5 feet” he said. “The weather came up. They had been calling for 2- to 4-foot waves. The captain had been going along and the waves got a little bigger than 2 to 4 feet.”

The response team reported plugging all ten of the partly submerged Arthur J’s fuel tank vents by the evening of July 19. And Friday morning July 20 no additional oil had been released.

At press time the Madison had been raised on July 21 and salvage operations were continuing on the barge. There were no reports of wildlife being affected.

According to its Web site MCM Marine’s fleet includes three hydraulic cutterhead dredges and five clamshell dredges.

The Coast Guard said it was investigating the accident’s cause.