A tugboat released thousands of gallons of diesel fuel as it sank into the Tennessee River in northwestern Alabama over the weekend, prompting a multiagency response from state and local officials and the closing of a local beach.
George Grabryan, the emergency management director for the city of Florence and Lauderdale County, Ala., said a fisherman noticed oil in the water around 10 a.m. on Sunday, prompting the authorities to close a 100-yard stretch of beach and place booms around the tugboat and the city’s port to contain the spill.
Mr. Grabryan said that it was too soon to know the extent of the damage but that between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons of fuel had seeped into the water. The spill had not had an impact on the drinking water supply, he said.
“We don’t know what the long-term effects on the ecosystem might be up there,” he said.
Mr. Grabryan said that it was unclear what caused the tugboat to sink but that the boat, which was not attached to another vessel, was still afloat at the end of the day on Friday. He said that the diesel spill had been “confined primarily” to the tugboat’s location and the area that had been closed off, including the mouth of the harbor.
The port of Florence is a busy waterway, teeming with commercial and fishing traffic, including tournaments, Mr. Grabryan said.
The United States Coast Guard and local officials were responding to the spill, he said. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management, which also responded to the spill, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Grabryan said the Coast Guard was working with the tugboat’s owner on Monday to remove the boat from the water and begin an environmental cleanup. A contractor will begin working to pump out the tug and to skim the surface for diesel.
“Fortunately, this product floats,” he said.