The U.S. Coast Guard has begun salvage operations to offload 4,700 barrels of benzene and other toxic chemicals from a sunken barge that went down in Lake Erie in 1937. Benzene is one of the top twenty chemicals used most often by American industry. When exposed to benzene over a long period of time, workers are at risk for developing acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. Benzene is present in many refined petroleum products, including fuels and solvents.
Toxic Benzene Found in Large Quantities Aboard Sunken Cargo Barge
In August, an amateur diver spotted the Argo in about 45 feet of water. The cargo barge reportedly was operating illegally when it went down more than 75 years ago. All cargo records are long gone. But sample testing of the wreckage shows that the vessel was carrying benzene, toluene and xylene, suggesting that the cargo may have been benzole, a petroleum product used in the Argo’s era.
The Coast Guard and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency launched an emergency investigation into the Argo after divers described a strong smell of solvents in the water. The Coast Guard brought in half a dozen 21,000-gallon steel containers designed to store benzene and other toxic chemicals.
The sunken barge has eight cargo holds. On the first day of operations, the cleanup crew pumped benzene from the first hold. Workers under the water are moving tank by tank throughout the vessel. Workers on the water’s surface are wearing hazmat suits to protect them from benzene exposure as the toxic chemical is pumped up from below.
Weather permitting, the 45 response workers involved hope to complete the benzene cleanup before the harsh winter season sets in. The Coast Guard has set up a one-mile safety perimeter around the sunken barge.
Contact Waters Kraus & Paul to Learn More About Filing a Benzene Lawsuit
The lawyers at Waters Kraus & Paul have been representing people who have been sickened by toxic exposures for more than twenty years. Have you or a loved one been exposed to benzene and been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or myelodysplastic syndrome? If so, call us at 800.226.9880 to speak with one our of our attorneys like Scott Frost and Susannah Chester-Schindler in our Dallas office, to learn more about how we can assist you with a benzene lawsuit.