Report: Lack of maintenance to blame for Ohio River barge breakaway |

Report: Lack of maintenance to blame for Ohio River barge breakaway

Jamie Martines
Engineers examine the damage from barges that piled up on the Ohio River at the Emsworth Locks and Dam on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2017, after a severe winter storm hit the region.

Failure to maintain a “fleeting area” where barges are moored or assembled led to a 27-barge pileup in January 2018 that struck the Emsworth Locks and Dams on the Ohio River, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report released Thursday.

The report faults the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, or Alcosan, which owns the fleeting area, along with barge operator Industry Terminal and Salvage Company for failing to maintain the area.

Alcosan officials declined to comment Thursday.

“Contributing to the accident was the Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard’s lack of resources and authority to effectively inspect fleeting areas and ensure that they are maintained,” the report said.

The barges broke free from the Jacks Run fleeting area and drifted downriver before striking Emsworth Locks and Dams, the report said. Ice and high water levels contributed to the breakaway.

Total damage exceeded $12.5 million, including the total loss of nine barges and two Army work boats, according to the report.

There were no injuries and the Emsworth Locks and Dams were not significantly damaged, but some cement and coal spilled into the river.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued recommendations to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard aimed at establishing maintenance procedures, including specific procedures for high water and ice conditions.

The Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the Waterways Association of Pittsburgh formed a working group in September to review such policies, Lt. Shawn Simeral of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Pittsburgh said.

Recommendations included in the National Transportation Safety Board report will be included in those conversations moving forward, he said.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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