Fuel, oil cleaned from river

Karen Danner
On Thursday morning, Coast Guard personnel in the motor boat on the left watched as the riverboat that sunk recently was raised and removed as they supervised the task. Water can be seen being pumped out of the tug. A diver was used, as was a huge tank truck to hold water and oil retrieved from the spill area.

The cause of a fuel and oil spill in the Illinois River Feb. 21 remains under investigation, said Galena Road Gravel Inc. president and general manager Rich Lucas.

A riverboat owned by Galena Road Gravel Inc. was raised Thursday, but officials are unable to investigate the cause until the boat is in dry dock.

“We still have not figured out the cause yet,” said Lucas. “We’ve just got it raised now. It’s floating on its own now.”

He said he suspects a small leak may have allowed about 150 gallons of diesel fuel and six gallons of engine oil to leak into the river.

“We think its just a weld seam that maybe rusted, and the ice around it and underneath may have hit it enough to poke a hole in the boat,” said Lucas.

Plans were for the boat to head to dry dock Tuesday, but strong winds canceled the plan.

“It’s still in our barge loading slip. We’re monitoring it to make sure it does not take on water,” he said.

Lucas said an employee originally found the sunken boat still tied to the dock located near the Peoria Casting Club.

His first call was to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency emergency response number.

That group then contacted the local EPA and the Coast Guard, with officials on scene Feb. 22.

Lucas then called Clean Harbors Environmental Services in Chicago.

“They did the containment work and fuel clean-up,” Lucas said.

“They placed absorbent pads and a boom around the area. Then they vacuumed the area with a vac truck and disposed of the fuel and oil properly.”

The entire clean-up took three days, with the crew arriving by 4 p.m. Friday and cleaning 95 percent of the area by Sunday afternoon. The crew returned the next day to finish the work.

“A big concern of ours was making sure it was cleaned up properly,” said Lucas.

The ice on the Illinois River turned out to be a blessing this time.

“There was still ice in the slip, so it helped contain the diesel fuel,” said Lucas. “It only covered about a 20-by-40-foot area.”

The final step in the process is getting the river boat completely out of the water so it can be inspected and repaired.

“There was no harm done to the environment — no fish, no wildlife,” said Lucas. “This was cleaned up per Coast Guard specifications, and there will basically be no


“They’re satisfied we captured 100 percent of what was spilled into the river. We’re hoping to get the boat out in the next couple days or by the end of the week. It’ll be towed to a dry dock and lifted out to be inspected, where Galena and the Coast Guard will look at the damage.”