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Oil coats the booms placed right outside the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Photo by Julie Dermansky

There was an oil spill Thursday that shut a 10-mile stretch of the Mississippi River in downtown New Orleans after a vessel spilled oil into the river.

New Orleans, which sits near the mouth of the Mississippi, is an important transit point for energy, metals and agriculture commodities moving to overseas and domestic markets. Vessel traffic ended up halted between mile markers 91 and 101, the Coast Guard said.

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There were no injuries in the incident. The Coast Guard estimated 4,200 gallons of diesel oil spilled.

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The closing stalled 12 commercial vessels on the river, according to Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Third Class Travis Magee. It was unclear when that stretch of the waterway would be reopened, he said.

The Singapore-flagged vessel Pac Antares, which was carrying silicon manganese, hit a pier, causing the vessel’s diesel fuel to spill, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said. Authorities earlier had warned of strong river currents in the area due to spring snow melt.

Federal and state authorities were responding to the spill. The Pac Antares was moored at Nashville Avenue Wharf in New Orleans and the leak has been plugged, the maritime military service said.

While fumes were noticeable during a local festival, Greg Langley, a spokesperson for The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), said the fumes were not strong enough to be a human health concern.

He said LDEQ is “providing support through air monitoring which has not shown anything above an action level, only some low level odors.”

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