Oil spill flows by French Quarter Festival


Caleb Beck

The U.S. Coast Guard monitor the impact from the oil spill Thursday afternoon. They shut down all traffic on the river and requested the RTA shut down the ferry leading from Algiers to Canal St.

Caleb Beck

The smells and sounds of French Quarter Festival don’t normally include the stench of thousands of gallons of oil.

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning, it was reported that the cargo ship PAC Antares had collided with a pier off Nashville Wharf. Over the next three hours, it leaked spilled roughly 2,500 gallons of fuel into the Mississippi River.

The Coast Guard reported that the leak had been fixed by 1:21 p.m., and promptly shut down river traffic while cleanup crews worked on containing the spill.

The current carried a considerable oil slick down the river past the first day of French Quarter Fest crowds, many of whom were unaware of the spill.

Evelyn Murden, a retired Gretna resident, said that there was no announcement addressing the spill or fumes in the air from French Quarter Fest organizers.

“If you were at the festival, you wouldn’t know,” Murden said.

Festival-goer Scott Kottman only learned what had happened through Instagram posts but picked up on the oil sheen and stench as soon as he arrived at noon.

“It’s nauesous and nauseating and ruins the experience. I noticed it as soon as we got here, but nobody seemed to care,” Kottman said.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality quietly took readings of airborne fumes and reported the odor was not at a harmful level.

Dwight Bradshaw, a senior environmental scientist with the DEQ, said that the spill looked a lot worse than the impact will be.

“Because the oil is so thick, like asphalt, it acts on the surface. The water intake on the East Bank toward St. Bernard Parish shouldn’t see their water supply affected in any way,” Bradshaw said.

Seagulls stayed away from the surface of the water, but by 3 p.m. any indication left of the spill were faint trails of surface-based oil and a faint smell.

Murden said she is still furious about the spill.

“The smell was so offensive and strong. It’s burned the inside of my throat. People could smell it all the way down to Bourbon Street,” Murden said.