A 2-mile St. Mary Parish stretch of Bayou Teche that had been closed for more than two weeks after an oil spill reopened Thursday, although a no-wake zone remains in place along the portion of waterway affected by the crude.
Vessels will be required to travel at idle speed through the buoy-marked spill site; how long that restriction will remain in place has not yet been determined, said Lt. j.g. Lisa Siebert, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City.
The St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office, which has been patrolling the area and restricting vessel traffic since the March 28 spill between Jeanerette and Charenton, will continue monitoring the site, spokeswoman Traci Landry said.
About 12,500 gallons of crude oil being handled by employees of PSC Industrial Outsourcing Inc. overflowed from one tank and into another that had an open valve, causing the crude to spill onto the surrounding land and some of it into the nearby bayou, according to the Coast Guard.
Residents near the site had been asked to shelter in place after pollution in the bayou was reported to the Sheriff’s Office about 5:30 p.m. March 28. A portion of La. 87 between the St. Mary Sugar Co-op to about a mile east of the Adeline Bridge also was closed to traffic.
The Coast Guard lifted that advisory and road closure about 8 a.m. the following day.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is the lead response agency for inland oil spills, said it’s still investigating the incident.
PSC, a Houston-based industrial waste management services company that has not responded to media requests for comment, could face fines.
Oil pollution violations can cost as high as $37,500 per day per violation, with no cap on the potential cost, said Joseph Hubbard, a spokesman for EPA’s Region 6, which covers Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.
“EPA will continue to look into the incident to understand what action we should take next,” Hubbard said in an email.
Hubbard said the 12,500 gallons of spilled oil “impacted” the public waterway, but he did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about how much crude actually spilled into the bayou.
The Coast Guard has said American Pollution Control Corp., which PSC contracted to perform the cleanup, deployed about 4,000 feet of boom to contain the slick. The Louisiana office for the business is based in New Iberia, but the corporation is registered in Delaware.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.