Chain slips on first try to move tank in Mississippi River

Thursday, August 28, 2008
Submitted photo Work continued to work Wednesday on removing a fuel tank from the Mississippi River near the Red Star Access.

A chain slipped off the submerged end of a storage tank stuck in the Mississippi River upstream from downtown Cape Girardeau when salvage cranes tried to lift the tank, the tank's owner, Robert Erlbacher, said Wednesday.

The attempt to lift the tank took place shortly after 1 p.m. Onlookers on shore reported hearing a loud snapping sound just before the tank settled back into the water.

The tank has been stuck on the eastern edge of the navigation channel since Friday, when flash flooding flushed it from a creek about three-quarters of a mile upstream from its present position. Okie Moore Diving & Salvage of St. Charles, Mo., is handling the salvage operations.

"They had it up pretty high, but the cable broke," said Bob Mitchell, one of a dozen spectators watching the operation from the picnic shelter at the Red Star River Access. "It was about a third of the way up the crane."

Wednesday morning was spent setting a chain and cable barge-mounted crane in place on the tank. In all, four barges are anchored in the river next to the portion above the water's surface. The setback will cost crews about a day to put the chains and cables back in place and make another attempt at lifting the tank, Erlbacher said.

The tank is about 40 feet in diameter and 40 to 50 feet tall. It was used for decades at a bulk fuel station owned by J.D. Street Inc., and later as a storage tank for other liquids. It had not been used for about a decade when flooding earlier this year moved it from its moorings to a creek bed nearby. Heavy rains Thursday night flushed it out of the creek bed and swept it downstream.

Erlbacher, who also owns Missouri Dry Dock & Repair Co. on Aquamsi Street, said Tuesday that the first objective of the salvage effort is to move the tank to shallower water near the Illinois shore. Further decisions about finally removing the tank will be made then, Erlbacher said.

The removal operation has drawn several people each day since barge-mounted salvage cranes arrived in the area Monday.

335-6611, extension 126

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: