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Mississippi River opened after oil spill

NEW ORLEANS — The Coast Guard has reopened all of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, though ships and other vessels must pass slowly near the site of a weekend oil spill.

About 31,500 gallons of light crude oil spilled into the river after a tank barge hit a towboat Saturday afternoon.

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Petty Officer Matthew Schofield said the last 25-mile stretch downriver from the accident site was opened Monday afternoon. Forty miles from New Orleans toward Baton Rouge were opened earlier in the day.

The accident was at least the third in three years involving a towboat owned by Settoon Towing of Louisiana. Company attorney Alex Pucheu did not immediately return calls and e-mails requesting comment.

Schofield said at least 30 vessels waited for the reopening.

Officials reported only a light sheen after the accident but river traffic was halted to avoid contaminating passing vessels and to prevent oil from spreading downriver.

No injuries were reported in the accident involving the barge being pushed by a tugboat and another tugboat near Vacherie, 47 miles west of New Orleans. The other tugboat was pushing grain barges.

Public drinking water intakes on the river were closed as a precaution in nearby St. Charles Parish, officials said. ‘‘The water supply in St. Charles Parish remains safe,’’ parish officials said.

The closure included the Port of New Orleans. However, two cruise ships were able to leave the port Sunday to begin their scheduled cruises.

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