The saga of the Lake Superior continues, with the U.S. Coast Guard discovering the tugboat is leaking oil.
The privately-owned retired U.S. Army Corps tugboat, named Lake Superior, began listing over the weekend while docked at its slip off Railroad Street near Pier B and the Compass Minerals dock, and by Monday morning, the stern of the vessel was underwater because ice around it had melted.
Federal certified contractors responded to the slip on Thursday morning and discovered at least one gallon of oil coming out of the vessel, Joseph McGinnis, the waterways management branch chief with the U.S. Coast Guard, told Bring Me The News on Friday.
Read more [March 23]: Crews removing fuel, water from sinking Lake Superior tugboat
"The contractors placed sorbent material around the vessel to absorb the oil and contain the pollution," McGinnis said.
Meanwhile, the 7,500 gallons of fuel and oil on board the tugboat is believed to be secured but refloating the tug to drain the potential pollutants "is not possible at this time due to 6-8 feet of ice inside of the vessel," he added.
The Coast Guard is working with the contractors to mitigate the situation and pollution responders will continue to conduct daily site visits to monitor the situation.
"Coast Guard's focus is on protecting the environment. Once the environmental hazards are removed, the Coast Guard will have completed its mission. The fate of the vessel afterwards will be up to the owner," McGinnis said.
Related [March 21]: Coast Guard investigating sinking tugboat on Lake Superior in Duluth
It's still not clear what caused the tugboat to start taking on water, with McGinnis telling Bring Me The News on Wednesday the hope is that question will be answered when the vessel is lifted out.
McGinnis encourages members of the public to call 218-725-3800 or 906-635-3233 if they see a vessel sinking or notice "any large sheens of oil" in the water.
Lake Superior's storied history
The tugboat has worn many hats since it was built in 1943 for the U.S. Army and named Maj. Emil H. Block, according to the website Great Lakes Tugs and Workboats.
She worked in the South Pacific moving barges and sank in 1950, the Star Tribune said. The vessel was fixed up and then transferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1950 and renamed Lake Superior, Great Lakes Tugs and Workboats says.
The tug was retired from service in about 1995 and was donated to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, which used it as a floating museum, the website said. A private owner —Billington Contracting of Duluth — bought the vessel in 2007.
The live-aboard, 114-foot steel hull tug was listed previously listed for sale, according to an old ad that touted the vessel's stainless galley, oak and mahogany wood, brass fixtures and ceramic tile floors.
The Lake Superior isn't the first former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tugboat to take on water in Duluth. The Essayons, which was built in 1908, sank to the bottom of its slip on Lake Superior on March 24, 2009, according to media reports. A local businessman had owned the tug since 1994 and was hoping to convert it into a bed and breakfast.
The engine of the Essayons is now on display at the Duluth Marine Museum in Canal Park.