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Northwest Alabama beach reopens following diesel spill from sunken tugboat in Tennessee River

The McFarland Park Beach along the Tennessee River is reopening after it was temporarily closed when diesel fuel spilled into the river from a sunken tugboat.

Northwest Alabama officials have reopened a beach along the Tennessee River after they closed it when diesel spilled into the river from a sunken tugboat.

George Grabyan, emergency management director for Florence and Lauderdale County, told WHNT-TV that the beach at the city's McFarland Park was reopened after water samples were tested.

"They were comfortable with everything so we felt really good about opening the beach area back up," Grabryan told the television station.

Police pulled swimmers out of the water on July 16 when the fuel, forming a visible slick, began floating downstream.

The tugboat Michael R sank at its berth in the Port of Florence, just upriver from the park, prompting a multiday environmental response.


The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies responded after the boat, operated by RMB Marine Services, partially sank and began leaking fuel. The Coast Guard said that floating boom contained most of the fuel, which was skimmed from the water. The tugboat had 2500 gallons of fuel in its tanks when it sank.

There have been no reports of injuries or wildlife impact, and Grabyan said officials don't expect any long-term environmental harms. Some cities rely on the river for drinking water.

"We’re not expecting any effects on the beach — that’s what the testing proved out," he said. We’re also not expecting any lingering effects anywhere along the river."

The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the sinking.

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