Lake Champlain

Feds assess threat from sunken Lake Champlain tug

From The Associated Press

For almost 50 years a tugboat that once hauled barges between Vermont and New York on Lake Champlain has sat upright 160 feet underwater, hardly changed since the November night in 1963 when it ran aground on a reef and went down.

The paint on the William H. McAllister appears barely faded in recent video footage, and fire hoses remain coiled on the deckhouse walls. There's also a chance that the tug's fuel tanks still could be holding as much as 14,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

That has federal officials, environmentalists and residents who know about it concerned.

The threat of what could happen if those tanks were to fail and belch fuel into the 120-mile-long lake that separates Vermont and upstate New York drew an expedition last week of federal environmental officials and engineers to the lake.

They sent a remotely operated vehicle onto the McAllister to try to determine if there's fuel that could leak out.

"It's in such good condition after all these years," said Don Dryden, a commercial diver who was there to provide technical expertise about the condition of the tugboat for McAllister Towing and Transportation of New York, the successor to the company that owned the tug in 1963.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency will analyze last week's findings and perhaps send divers into the tug later this summer to determine how much fuel is in the tanks.

If necessary, the remaining fuel would be pumped out, said Paul Kahn, a coordinator for the EPA working at the scene.