How did a barge carrying methanol break loose in the Ohio River?

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2023 | Water Contamination

Barges come in handy when hauling bulky or heavy items that would be difficult to transport with other vessels along inland waterways. This mode of transport is safe, but, at times, it can experience difficulties. On March 28, 2023, 10 barges broke loose from a tugboat on the Ohio River along the waterfront in Louisville, Kentucky.

The tug vessel was towing 11 barges when it hit a structure when entering the Portland Canal. 10 broke loose, with three settling next to part of the McAlpine Dam. Of the three, one was carrying about 1,400 metric tons of methanol, and according to officials, it’s partially submerged.

Was methanol released into the water?

There are no reports of methanol or chemicals seeping into the river, as barge companies have reported no damage to their facilities. Nonetheless, they will conduct a thorough examination after all barges are recovered. 

The Louisville emergency agency is leading the recovery effort with the help of other institutions, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s Ohio Valley sector, CTEH and the Kentucky Environment and Energy Cabinet. CTEH is a private company monitoring the scene’s air quality. 

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) is also keeping tabs on the case to ensure the river’s water quality is not compromised.

How can methanol affect you?

The Ohio River provides drinking water for over 5 million people, who may currently be at risk. Methanol is highly toxic, and ingesting it can lead to adverse effects, including headaches, severe abdominal pain, gastrointestinal bleeding, blurred vision and even death. 

With this incident, the Ohio River should be monitored and treated accordingly to protect residents from contaminated water. If you become sick due to this contamination, it will help to know how laws can apply to your case to protect your rights.   


What to do after a mesothelioma diagnosis
How to fund the war against opioid addiction in your community