Oil Spill Laps Shores During Chevron-Sponsored French Quarter Festival

Read time: 3 mins

On April 12, an oil spill in the Mississippi River brought noxious fumes to music lovers at the New Orleans French Quarter Festival. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates 4,200 gallons of *heavy fuel oil spilled when a cargo ship hit the Nashville Wharf. 

Oil on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Oil trapped in rocks along the Mississippi River’s edge.

Traffic on the river was stopped while the Coast Guard and the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office (LOSCO) started to clean the spill. Clean up efforts continued this morning. 

The Coast Guard’s release said the spill was plugged a few hours after the Singapore-flagged “Pac Antares” hit the pier Thursday morning.

I photographed the spill at the end of the day when thick oil was lapping up on rocks lining the river’s edge. The fumes were strong enough to give me a headache and a scratchy throat.

Cleanup crew working on an oil spill in the Mississippi River without protective gear.

For the most part, the spill didn’t seem to be impacting visitors I spoke to. Many were taking pictures of the oil at the river’s edge.

Local artist Clay Mazing picked up a stick and wrote, “Brought to you by Chevron” in oil on the steps leading to the river near one of the French Quarter Festival stages.

Clay Mazing, a performing artist based in New Orleans, draws in oil on the steps.

Chevron is the French Quarter Festival’s major sponsor.

“All of New Orleans’ major arts festivals are underwritten by oil companies these days,” he said.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is sponsored by Shell and local museums also receive generous support from oil and gas companies.  The Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans even has a curator from an oil company, Andrea Andersson, The Helis Foundation Chief Curator of Visual Arts. 

Woman who enjoyed the festival despite the spill. The work she does is funded by money from the BP oil spill.

Girl near one of the French Quarter Festival stages where oil from the spill washed up.

Greg Langley, a spokesperson for The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, said the fumes were not strong enough to be a human health concern. In an email the day after the spill, he wrote that the LDEQ is “providing support through air monitoring which has not shown anything above an action level, only some low level odors.”

Oil stuck in boom near a boat on the river in the French Quarter.

Girls on a trip from Wisconsin checking out the oil spill from the recently renovated riverfront in the French Quarter.

Kids played by the Mississippi River’s edge despite the oil spill.

Thick globs of oil washed up in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Oil coated boom in the Mississippi River during the French Quarter Festival.

Update 4/17/2018: The U.S. Coast Guard first said the leaked oil was diesel fuel but later updated their information to say that it was heavy fuel oil. 

Main image: Plastic cup from the French Quarter Festival on the bank of the Mississippi River next to oil trapped in containment boom.

Get DeSmog News and Alerts