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Oil barge collides with Execution Rocks

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A barge carrying more than 5 million gallons of home heating oil struck an unknown object and began taking on water near City Island on Thursday, January 22.

According to the United States Coast Guard, no pollution occurred. The commercial tugboat Meredith C. Reinauer was pushing the barge, that originated in Boston, when it ran aground near Execution Rocks in the Long Island Sound.

At about 2:30 p.m., the tug’s master called the Coast Guard for help, reporting that the double-hulled barge was taking on water in a ballasting void. The tug brought the barge to safety off Hart Island.

According to City Island Civic Association member Barbara Dolensek, the unknown object left two six-foot cracks, an eight-foot crack and a 40 by 40-foot tear on the barge’s starboard bow. The tug belongs to Reinauer Transportation, a Staten Island based shipping company.

A 150-year old lighthouse presides over the rocks where the barge ran aground. At low tide, the rocks jut 300 yards east of the lighthouse and are well marked.

“There’s a reason why those rocks are called Execution Rocks,” said Bill Stanton, City Island Civic Association president.

A 41-foot Coast Guard boat from Kings Point reached the barge and tug first, and confirmed that the barge was not leaking oil. Commercial divers from Randive, Inc. surveyed the barge’s hull.

Miller Environmental Group, a company specializing in oil spill remediation, placed a boom around the barge and drained it of oil. On Friday, January 23, the Coast Guard enforced a 200-yard buffer zone around the tug and barge.

As of Monday, January 26, investigations by the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Conservation were ongoing.

In 1847, the United States Congress appropriated $25,000 for the construction of the Execution Rocks Lighthouse to safeguard maritime traffic. According to the National Park Service, the lighthouse is still operational.

It’s rumored that the rocks and lighthouse were named for a brutal Colonial-era custom.

“If you did something wrong, the British authorities would tie you out on the rocks and the tide would come up and drown you,” said Jim Lynch of the City Island Yacht Club.

Nassau County police accompanied the tug and barge to the north side of Hart Island. Another tug accompanied the barge to Brooklyn’s GMD shipyard for dry dock repairs, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

In 1990, five spills occurred in the New York Harbor area, and a pipeline spilled 567,000 gallons of fuel into the water, DEC spokesman Thomas Panzone said.

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