A representative of the owner of the towboat that ran aground last week in LeClaire pledged Monday to pick up all the costs of the accident. Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard offered new details about the accident that disabled the Stephen L. Colby.
The towboat hit a submerged object in the Mississippi River last Monday and sank. Nine crew members escaped without injury.
Coast Guard Capt. Byron Black, who is coordinating the federal response to the incident, told the LeClaire City Council the agency is conducting a "robust" investigation. And while he said a cause hadn't been determined, a 12-by-30 inch "funky" shaped hole was found in the vessel.
The gash is located about mid-ship.
During Monday's council meeting, Black said the object that sank the Colby was submerged and it took only 12 minutes from impact to when the vessel ran into the bank.
"Whatever he hit was a substantial thing that caused significant flooding, caused it to sink rapidly," Black said.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Marquette Transportation Co. of Paducah, Ky., were at the council meeting to answer questions.
They said the Colby was traveling in the middle of the main channel and that the pilots were licensed and experienced.
In answer to a question from a resident about who would cover the costs from the incident, a company official said that Marquette would.
"Marquette is fully responsible for all the costs incurred, and we plan on making things as good as they were on Monday at 4 o'clock (before the vessel ran aground) as opposed to what it is right now," said Chris Myskowski, senior vice president of operations for Marquette. He added the company is insured.
Efforts to raise the towboat began Monday.
As the Colby was partially lifted out of the water, a salvage crew of nearly 30 sealed windows and doorways so they can begin pumping oil and water out of the engine room, said Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Mariana O’Leary, Joint Information Center, Unified Command, U.S. Coast Guard.
Officials were hopeful to get it out by the time the weather got colder.
"We're racing the weather," O'Leary said.
Frigid and gusty weather has been one of the biggest obstacles of the fuel spill cleanup effort, which wrapped up over the weekend as salvaging preparation got under way.
Temperatures stayed in the 40s for much of Monday, and today is expected to be slightly warmer. But a cold front on Thursday is expected to drop even the day's high temperature below freezing, and O'Leary said crews are hoping to finish raising the boat by then.
The weather will stay below freezing Friday and into the weekend, according to forecasts.
Still, officials said they've made progress.
"We're happy with where we're at so far," O'Leary said.
That freezing weather could lengthen the amount of time it takes to completely finish restoring the site. Coast Guard officials said it's possible some of the oil at the shoreline could freeze, and residue could still exist even in the spring.
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If that happens, officials will monitor it and see that it's cleaned up.
The Colby was carrying 91,000 gallons of diesel fuel and oil when it sank.
Coast Guard officials said about 88,000 gallons of oily water has been recovered from the Colby, while about 59,000 gallons of oily water has come from the river. Because the oil and fuel has mixed with water, officials say they aren't able to determine how much of the petroleum product itself has been recovered.
Crews have deployed 3,000 feet of containment boom, 2,900 feet of sorbent boom, three skimmer vessels, four workboats and 29 response personnel for cleanup and salvage operations.
Black praised local law enforcement for their rapid response.
Officials haven't said how much the entire operation has cost so far.
LeClaire Mayor Bob Scannell said his community has opened its kitchens and warming centers to the cleanup and salvage crews all week.
"Everybody realizes this is something we're faced with," Scannell said. "The Coast Guard has been doing a very good job informing us what's going on. That's why they're coming to our meeting. And the community has come together really well to support them."
The LeClaire Fire Department shared its Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday with crews working that day, and the local civic center was open most of last week as a warming center for the workers, Scannell said.
The mayor said he also has offered workers the conference room at the police department, which has a kitchen.
"They're very appreciative of everything the city is doing," Scannell said.