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Possibility of pollution because of grounded cargo ship in Lake Superior “very remote”

Courtesy Photo
Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay
The motor vessel Roger Blough sits grounded in the vicinity of Gros Cap Reefs Light in Whitefish Bay, Lake Superior, May 29, 2016, as seen from the deck of Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay.

Federal officials are figuring out a plan to safely recover a cargo vessel that’s run aground in a small channel west of Sault Sainte Marie. The 833-foot-long Roger Blough was taking iron ore pellets from Minnesota to Ohio when it ran aground Friday night.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Yaw is with the U.S. Coast Guard. He says it’s not clear what happened.

“There are a lot of factors in the marine environment that just, any one of them can cause something like this and so it’s really hard to say,” Yaw said Monday afternoon.

Yaw says there’s been no pollution reported, but the Coast Guard has put out 6,000 feet of containment boom, just in case. Yaw says there’s about 130,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board.

“There is a concern just because the possibility, even no matter how remote, and it is very remote, it still exists,” Yaw said.

The fuel tanks are in the back of the ship, opposite the end that’s run aground. Yaw says the tanks are also above the water line.

All 22 crew members are reported safe with no injuries. Initial flooding in the ship has subsided, Yaw said.

A salvage team will do an underwater hull examination and begin salvage surveys this week. The National Transportation Safety Board is assisting the Coast Guard in the investigation.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.