- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Crews have finished an effort to eliminate environmental threats from a sunken barge that apparently sat undiscovered in Lake Erie for nearly 80 years, The U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday.

Salvage crews recently pumped out hazardous, oil-based substances from the barge, though six of the eight tanks onboard were empty. The mixture of cargo and water removed from the site near the U.S.-Canadian border totaled more than 33,000 gallons, the Coast Guard said in a statement announcing the effort’s official end.

Whether oil-based substances in the other tanks spilled when the barge sank or trickled out over time remains a mystery. A Coast Guard spokesman, Lt. Mike Hart, previously said officials have no way to make a determination on that.

The vessel is believed to be the Argo, which sank during a storm in 1937. The wreckage was among 87 shipwrecks on a federal registry that identifies the most serious pollution threats to U.S. waters.

Historical documents indicated it was transporting benzol and crude oil when it went down. A report produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2013 said it was believed to be carrying 100,000 gallons of the oil-based products.

Up to $5.65 million from two funds was made available for the cleanup, and the actual costs still are being finalized, the statement said.

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