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4H Construction Oil Spill - UCGPE23614

Site Contact:
Adam Adams
On-Scene Coordinator


Site Location:
35.436388, -94.371666
Fort Smith, AR 72904
NRC#: 1372952

EPA responded on July 13, 2023, with contractors to secure, recover, and remove discharged oil products from four vessels that sank in the Arkansas River near Fort Smith, Arkansas. Following demobilization, EPA has continued to contain further discharges from the sunken vessels with hard boom and conduct site walks to monitor the incident. On February 2, 2024, after a report that a fifth vessel, the BJ103, sank on January 26, 2024, EPA mobilized with contractors to recover discharged oil products from BJ103 and conduct maintenance for the four previously sunken vessels. EPA continues to monitor the Site and communicate and coordinate with the USCG, ADEE, SCDEM, and Crawford County Department of Emergency Management (CCDEM).


On July 13 at 12:51 PM, the EPA was notified by the National Response Center (NRC) of an incident involving four submerged vessels at mile marker 301 (35.436388, -94.371666) in the Arkansas River near Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. As indicated in the NRC Report, the vessels involved in the incident are owned by 4H Construction and were previously used as towing vessels. According to a representative from 4H Construction, the vessels have been out of service for approximately 3 years. The US Coast Guard (USCG) was on-scene and informed the EPA that the vessels were discharging an unknown mixture of oil into the Arkansas River, however, the spilled quantity was unknown at the time. The owner of the vessels indicated they were currently in bankruptcy dissolution proceedings and informed EPA that they were unable to perform a cleanup.  Local authorities (Sebastian County Department of Emergency Management (SCDEM) and Crawford County DEM (CCDEM)) responded and contained the spill with containment booms but did not have the resources to recover the discharge from the Arkansas River or from the submerged vessels. Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment (ADEE) informed EPA that they also didn’t have the resources to recover oil from the Arkansas River or from the submerged vessels.  

The EPA Phone Duty Officer activated Response Duty Officer Adam Adams and START contractors to respond to the incident. The spill location is in the EPA Area of Responsibility; therefore, EPA is the lead agency. 

On the afternoon of July 14, 2023, EPA was notified that three of the four vessels belonged to different entities. All three Responsible Parties have been notified and sent Notices of Federal Interest (NOFIs).