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First Coast

Coal Ash Barge Afloat After 90 Days Off Jacksonville Coast

Work continues on the Barge Bridgeport
Barge Bridgeport Response
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After about 90 days stranded off the Jacksonville coast, a barge called the Bridgeport has been re-floated. 

Questions remain about how much of the barge’s cargo spilled, and what the environmental impacts might be. 

“As the Bridgeport became buoyant she was shifted into shallow waters and is currently anchored three quarters of a mile NW of her original location,” wrote rescue spokesman Jim Lawrence. “The charted water depth at the location is 23' which provides an element of safety should seas overtop and refill the barge. In this depth of water, and with a flat seafloor, the hopper will remain accessible.”

The barge was carrying coal ash, a potentially hazardous material produced when coal is burned for energy. After the ship ran aground in late March, salvage crews worked for weeks to remove the ship’s cargo, but when heavy weather knocked the ship off balance in April, an indeterminate amount of coal ash was released into the coastal waters. 

In internal emails, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission estimated 9,000 tons of the material may have spilled. No safety warnings have been issued for people swimming, boating or fishing off the coast. 

The barge is now headed towards the North Florida Shipyards, close to TIAA Bank Field in Downtown Jacksonville, for repairs. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.