PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the mouth of the Pascagoula River after a ship at Ingalls Shipbuilding had a mechanical error, say officials.
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality estimates that 500 gallons of fuel spilled into the water Saturday afternoon. A mechanical failure on the Paul Ignatius (DDG 117) caused the fuel to spill out of the ship just after 1 p.m.
Sources tell us that the DDG 117 was taking on fuel from a fueling barge when a fuel level sensor failed. That caused the fuel tank to overfill, spilling fuel out of the ship's fuel vent, onto the deck, and into the river.
The rest of the day and into Saturday night was spent cleaning up the spill, said Nick Hatten with MDEQ. Fortunately, equipment was already in place as a precautionary action in case something like a fuel spill occurred.
"The ship being worked on had a 24-inch polypropylene boom that was already in the water. So it was very easy to deploy around the ship to contain the fuel," said Hatten. "Last night was spent skimming the fuel, vacuuming it, and physically removing it."
A polypropylene boom is designed to repel water and soak up oil, gas, and diesel before it spreads to navigable waters. The chemical-resistant poly skin is filled with highly-sorbent polypropylene so it won't shed or sink, even when saturated with oil.
The spilled fuel is not believed to be a cause for concern for fishermen or residents in the area.
"Ingalls did a very good job containing the fuel and physically removing it," said Hatten, who is the state on-scene coordinator for MDEQ. "As of right now, there is no danger to the public."
According to Hatten, no fines have been issued against Ingalls for the fuel spill and may not be.
"That will be a call for administration but I don't foresee any fines being issued," he said.
Ingalls Shipbuilding released a statement on the incident, saying that the shipyard's response team responded immediately, containing nearly all of the fuel spill. The full statement from Ingalls said:
DDG 117 is the 31st ship in the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class of destroyers Ingalls is building for the U.S. Navy.