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Sunken towboat causing problems on Big Sandy

BUTLER, W.Va.  A sunken towboat on the Big Sandy River near Huntington is leaking oil into the river, the Coast Guard said.

The Gate City towboat began sinking at its mooring near Butler Wednesday morning. The incident was reported to the Coast Guard at around 7:40 a.m. Wednesday. The boat began discharging oil and has the potential to leak 5,000 gallons into the Big Sandy.

The leak is a few miles upstream from the intake of the Kenova water system

A Marine Safety Unit Huntington pollution response team and other teams are on the scene cleaning up the oil and coming up with a plan to stop the leak, and West Virginia National Guard’s 35th Civil Support Team is providing additional support in regards to environmental sampling.

The condition of the Big Sandy is making it difficult for crews, a Coast Guard spokesman told WSAZ-TV.

“The issues we are having right now some of them are with the ice on the river. It’s hard to get to the river with the steep river banks, there not being any boat ramps, it’s hard for our responders to get down and access to the oil where it’s spilling,” Chris Blank said.

The Kenova water system intake was closed Thursday, with the state Department of Health and Human Resources citing concerns of possible contamination. According to a department statement, around 3,700 customers could experience service interruption into the evening as a result of this action.

The state is also in the process of providing the affected area with two 8,000 gallon tankers of water.

State water tests could come back Friday afternoon at the earliest.

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