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One Loose Barge Remains Partially Submerged In The Mon, Removal Timeline Uncertain

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA
A partially submerged barge rests next to the Smithfield St. Bridge on Monday, January 28 2019.

One of the 12 coal barges that got loose on the Monongahela River last Monday is still partially submerged and resting near the Smithfield St. Bridge. The coal has been removed and the U.S. Coast Guard is figuring out the best way to remove the partially submerged barge.

A second barge that hit the bridge was removed last Wednesday.

Lt. Shawn Simeral with the U.S. Coast Guard said it's good that the barge is resting near the Southern shore, rather than in the middle of the river.

"It doesn't impact any commerce that's trying to transit through the area, and the recreational boat traffic is minimal this time of year," Simeral said. "So it's not impeding any traffic that normally would be happening."

Simeral said it's hard to know when the barge will be removed, but he anticipates it will probably happen in the next few weeks. Once the barge is removed, divers contracted by PennDOT and the Port Authority will go into the Mon and inspect any damage made to the Smithfield St. Bridge underwater. However, this week's projected cold snap could delay that work.

"We are looking at some pending ice situations that might be inbound to our port, and we just went through some high water this past weekend," he said. "They will not put their divers in the water if there's any danger to the diver that's not acceptable."

The Coast Guard is investigating how the 12 barges got loose from a towboat on the Monongahela on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The agency will write a report laying out what they believe happened, but Simeral said it might be a few weeks before it's available.