The U.S. Coast Guard reported on Tuesday that it had begun responding a week earlier to oil spilling from the partially sunken and abandoned tugboat Cape Lookout in Krause Lagoon off St. Croix. The tug was reportedly abandoned after the 2017 hurricanes.
While the amount spilled so far is unknown, according to the Coast Guard, based on the size of the vessel, its tanks could contain as much as 48,000 gallons of fuel and 2,000 gallons of lube oil if the tanks were completely full.
“Due to the immediate pollution threat this vessel represents to the environment and surrounding area, the Coast Guard is working to open the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to hire an Oil Spill Removal Organization to conduct cleanup operations,” Lt. Cmdr. Alberto Martinez, Sector San Juan Incident Management Division chief, said in a release from the Coast Guard. Once a company is hired, that company “will provide specialized personnel and equipment to recover any oil, fuel or potentially hazardous materials that may have been discharged into the water or remain aboard the vessel,” he said.
St. Croix Renaissance Group, LLP, reported the leak six days ago, on Nov. 12, and the Coast Guard confirmed oil coming from the 97-foot tugboat. The Cape Lookout remains tied to a concrete platform at the facility, partially sunk with its bow sticking out of the water.
According to the Coast Guard, about 85 percent of the discharged oil is still contained within the absorbent and containment boom that is surrounding the vessel, while the remaining 15 percent or so is within an area that extends roughly 50 yards from the vessel.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story mistakenly reported that the tug has been sunk since 2017.