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 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. Sebastian County Emergency
Management Department is on-scene and has contained the spill with containment
booms but doesn’t have the resources to recover oil from the Arkansas River or from the submerged vessels. Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment informed
EPA that they also don’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).