Great Lakes News

Great Lakes News

UPDATE: U.S. Coast Guard Pumps Toxic Chemical from Shipwreck


The Argo was a tanker barge operating illegally when it sank in 1937 off the coast of Sandusky, Ohio. With it went its history; historians say records of its cargo and crew have been lost due to its unofficial activities. However, the rediscovery of the Argo by a member of Cleveland Underwater Explorers (CLUE) this past August has begun to dredge more clues about the ship to the surface.

This weekend, the U.S. Coast Guard pumped 10,000 gallons of benzene from the first of eight holds in the ship. Benzene is a colorless or light yellow liquid that often floats on top of water, and is often used in plastic and other synthetic materials. According to the EPA, short-term inhalation of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, and irritation, while long-term inhalation can lead to blood disorders. Coverage of the shipwreck at notes that traces of Toluene, Xylene and petroleum have also been found from the shipwreck and match the chemical composition of a benzole, a vintage petroleum product.

When the wreck was discovered in about 45 feet of water, 8 miles east of Kelley’s Island Shoal, a large discoloration and “strong solvent odor” in the surrounding water prompted an emergency response from the Coast Guard. The Argo has been deemed the worst pollution threat from a shipwreck in the Great Lakes by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and boaters are encouraged to keep a distance from the wreck.

If the weather cooperates, authorities hope to unload a second tank from the Argo's hold later this week, and the remaining tanks before winter hits in full force.

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