SEATTLE — The Washington Ecology Department and others are working on plans to retrieve several crushed cars that fell into water 242 feet deep in Tacoma's Commencement Bay after a barge developed a leak and tipped them over the side.
The department and the Coast Guard didn't know the exact number of cars that landed in the water Sunday, Ecology spokeswoman Linda Kent and Coast Guard spokesman Nathan Littlejohn said.
Officials were initially concerned with stopping the barge from sinking and with a sheen of oil on the surface.
The Amix Marine Service barge, about 200 feet long, carries a load of flattened cars stacked more than 10 layers high, with other metal debris on top. The destination is the Schnitzer Steel metal recycling yard on the Hylebos Waterway, said company spokeswoman Louise Bray.
The barge was moored Sunday when a leak caused it to list and the cars started falling into the water. Schnitzer and Amix hired Global Salvage and Diving to make emergency repairs. They fixed a crack in the hull that was about 15 inches long and a quarter-inch wide, Kent said. After they pumped out water, the barge was stable again.
Emergency responders put a boom around the barge to contain the sheen. It apparently was residual oil. Liquids are removed from the cars before they are crushed.
A Coast Guard inspector gave approval to tow the barge to Schnitzer at midday Monday but gusty winds delayed the half-mile move.
Investigation under way
The barge with scrapped cars from the Vancouver area was making a routine trip to the Tacoma recycling yard, said Amix Marine Services President Clark Longmuir.
"These things can happen," Longmuir said. "It was dealt with as quickly as possible."
The state and Coast Guard are investigating how the barge developed a leak. The barge will be inspected again before it returns to Vancouver, where Amix plans a thorough evaluation.