By Beth David, Editor
On April 27, 2003, Bouchard Transportation Barge #120 hit a rock formation near Westport, Mass., just to our west. It ripped a 12×12 foot hole in the hull, and No. 6 oil started leaking into the ocean as the barge continue to Falmouth..
At least 98,000 gallons of the 4.1 million the barge carried leaked into the ocean, fouling 93 miles of coastline. Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett and Marion were hit hard. At Hoppy’s Landing, the beaches of West Island, and south facing beaches on the next all but disappeared under the thick, tar-like gunk that is No. 6 oil.
A massive cleanup effort took months. The economic hit was especially bad for fishermen with gear that got ruined. Beaches were unusable. Hundreds of birds were killed.
No. 6 oil does not evaporate, it has to be scooped up and carted away. It took months.
The incident did at least result in a change to some regulations, including that all single-hulled barges in Buzzards Bay must be escorted by a tugboat with a captain experienced in Buzzards Bay.
Some rocks were wiped and put back, but ultimately, it was easier to just cart many of them away and replace them.
Some beaches have never been the same.
But, in the 20 years since, we have reclaimed our beach space. Many of us who remember Bouchard #120, though, can never look at a barge passing by the Elizabeth Islands without worrying about what it is carrying, and what it might spill onto our lives.
For a detailed account of the event, filled with local flavor, see ML Baron’s website at https://www.westislandweather.com/oilspill2003.htm
The Neighb News wrote about the 2003 spill on 4/27/06. See our 2006 archives page for that issue.
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