- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

A salvage company yesterday rescued a barge at the Washington Fish and Seafood Market Place in Southwest from sinking into the Washington Channel.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services department spokesman Alan Etter said Potomac Marines, a private contractor, managed to pump water out of the barge belonging to Pruitt’s Seafood and patch holes in its bottom.

The barge was tied to three other barges, which were also threatened with sinking. Mr. Etter said employees left a water hose on overnight, which contributed to the problem.

Managers at Pruitt’s Seafood said their barge, which is tied up close to the concrete dock, had been damaged in yesterday’s incident.

“We lost about $1,000 to $1,500 of products,” said Todd Miller, 32, a manager at Pruitt’s Seafood, which is docked permanently near Water and 11th streets SW.

Firefighters were called to the barge early yesterday morning after employees discovered the 15-by-45-foot vessel was taking on water.

Mr. Miller said he was sleeping on the main level of the main barge when at about 5:30 a.m. he was awakened by a headache and realized that his body was on a slant because the stern of the main barge was sinking.

Mr. Miller immediately woke up three men who were on the deck above and called the D.C. Harbor Patrol. Mr. Miller said the water hose used to thaw shrimp was accidentally directed into two 40-foot-long 6-foot-deep tanks along the sides of the barge, instead of the channel, causing the barge to partially sink.

Mr. Etter said firefighters untied the sinking barge from the others. But, the sinking barge pulled the roof of Pruitt’s Seafood office and another small roof to the water surface. Mr. Miller said the office was ruined.

Mr. Etter said firefighters tried to pump the water out of the sinking barge, but abandoned their efforts after it sank even further.

A Harbor Patrol diver later discovered that the barge was being held up on wooden and steel containers that were collapsing, Mr. Etter said.

The barge also had problems in August 2003 when emergency teams determined that its wooden-and-steel bottom was “too deteriorated” to fix, he said.

“There was significant deterioration,” Mr. Etter said.

But, Mr. Etter said, the water hose was the “biggest factor” as it poured “thousands of gallons of water” into the sinking barge.

Mr. Etter said 10 pumps tried to suck the water out of the vessel.

“It seemed like the more we pumped, the more water came in,” Mr. Etter said, but, gradually, the pumps won.

Mr. Miller said the rising tide would most likely raise the sinking barge. He planned to re-open Pruitt’s at 4 p.m. yesterday.

Mr. Miller also said employees will be ordered to turn the water hoses away from the barge tanks and into the channel.


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