Crews searching for possible leak from sunken boat in Lake Erie

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Contractors conduct dive operations at the site of a sunken barge near the Kelley's Island Shoal in Lake Erie, Oct. 21, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station Marblehead)

CLEVELAND — The U.S. Coast Guard has established a safety zone in a portion of Lake Erie after receiving reports an unknown substance could possibly be leaking from a nearly 80-year-old sunken barge.

A zone three nautical miles east of Kelley’s Island Shoal has been set up by crews who are now investigating the site for potential environmental hazards.

Kelley’s Island Shoal is just south of the US-Canadian border in Lake Erie, north of Sandusky, Ohio.

A salvage company is scheduled to arrive as early as Tuesday to identify and secure the leak, according to the Coast Guard.

Friday evening, the Cleveland Underwater Explorers, CLUE, reported the suspected leak emanating from the sunken barge and the odor of solvent but couldn’t see the leak under water.

Divers with CLUE were investigating to determine if the sunken barge Argo, which sank in 1937, was to blame for the substance and odor.

During a Saturday flyover of the site, crews reported seeing a 400-yard area of discoloration on the water near the site. However, crews were unable to locate any discoloration during a second a second flyover on Sunday.

NOAA scientific support and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are working with the Coast Guard to take all necessary actions to ensure the safety of the public and the environment, a Sunday evening release from the Coast Guard said.

“What has been reported from responders is consistent with a lighter-end petroleum-based solvent that would quickly dissipate when it reaches the air,” said Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Migliorini, commanding officer of Marine Safety Unit Toledo in a release.

“Although we’re still working to identify the product, the primary concern is for an inhalation hazard for the responders on scene.”

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