A sheen of fuel or oil has appeared on the Columbia River where a 38-foot tugboat sank near Umatilla 10 miles upriver of McNary Dam.

No fuel is believed to be actively leaking, Laura Gleim, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, told the Tri-City Herald on Tuesday.

About 400 feet of boom was placed on the water around the sunken boat and the sheen is contained within the boom, she said. Pads are being used on the water to soak up as much of the fuel or oil sheen as possible.

The tugboat Nova had an estimated 750 gallons of diesel fuel and about 50 gallons of oil on board when it sank in Sunday night’s windstorm.

Strong winds blew the HME Construction tugboat away from its mooring and then pushed it about three-quarters of a mile upstream, where it sank. No crew was on board.

The HME Construction tugboat was found completely submerged and lying on its side about 9:30 a.m. Monday.


Divers were initially unable to go into the water Monday morning because of 4- to 8-foot swells, Gleim said.

But dive teams reached the tug Monday afternoon and reported that the fuel hatch remained closed and sealed. They plugged fuel vents while they were checking the tugboat.

The Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday that divers found a three-foot hole in the tugboat’s hull, but said it had not affected the fuel tanks.

The Washington state Department of Ecology and Department of Fish and Wildlife flew a helicopter over the river and spotted the sheen on the water. It may have come from fuel, possibly from the engine or the fuel vents before they were plugged.

A crane is expected to lift the submerged tug off the river bottom late Wednesday or Thursday.

It will be barged down the river to a Vancouver, Wash., shipyard for repairs.

More boom is being delivered to the incident site, in case it is needed.

In addition, about 500 feet of boom is ready 10 miles downstream of the sunken tugboat at Hermiston should there be a threat to its public water supply intake.

There have been no reports of impacts to wildlife.