The Argo is believed to have been carrying about 100,000 gallons each of crude light oil and benzol, a tar-like material containing benzene and toluene, when the barge became distressed during the storm and was abandoned by the tug towing it.Early this decade, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration listed it among 89 shipwrecks believed to pose a significant environmental threat to United States waters because of their cargoes or fueling systems.Five of those vessels were lost in the Great Lakes, and of them the Argo was deemed potentially most dangerous because of the size and unknown status of its cargo.
Coast Guard crews have responded to the site, following a "report of a discharge of an unknown substance," according to a news release, but haven't spotted the leak underwater.
Responders who flew above it Saturday noticed water discoloration spanning 400 yards, and crews reported smelling the "strong odor of a solvent" on Friday and Saturday, according to the release.
"What has been reported from responders is consistent with a lighter-end petroleum-based solvent that would quickly dissipate when it reaches the air," Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Migliorini, commanding officer of Marine Safety Unit Toledo, said in the news release.
So, now, a caveat: even the person who found this wreck site, Tom Kowalczk, can't say with 100 percent certainty that it is the Argo. It's not like the Argo was marked with a giant X, or there's a big sign next to it, that says "Argo here."
But the Argo is the only known tanker barge wreck in Lake Erie, the dimensions seem to fit, and historical information helps back the theory, Kowalczk said.
"We're 99.9 percent certain," Kowalczk told The Post.
Here's what happens now, according to a news release: a safety zone has been set up around the site, and vessels aren't allowed to enter. A salvage company has also been contacted, and will try to "identify and secure" the leak this week.
"We're fairly certain there's a leak," Migliorini told AP. "It's really hard for us to point to a specific cause."