Excavator out but barge still stuck in Lake Michigan

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PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — An excavator that sank into Lake Michigan has been pulled out of the water, authorities say, and crews are now back at work trying to free a grounded barge.

The excavator was sent into the lake to remove the barge but became partially submerged Wednesday. Authorities say the barge is in the lake off Lakeshore Avenue near W. Lakewood Boulevard in Park Township, northwest of Holland. Crews were able to haul out the excavator Friday morning.

A small group of workers then spent the remainder of Friday at the shoreline pumping water off of the barge. They also built a wall around the watercraft.

“The shoreline is private property but the barge was obviously out on Lake Michigan when it became stuck. Now they’ve brought in a bigger piece of equipment to try to free the barge,” Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jake Sparks said.

Neighbors in the area say the barge arrived in the fall of 2019, brought in another construction company to erect a sea wall and prevent a shoreline home from falling into the lake due to erosion. The home was saved but the barge that carried the materials for the job sank.

Because the work to remove the barge is a short distance from the water filtration plant, authorities say they were closely monitoring the situation to ensure there were no hazmat issues.

“You have hydraulic fuel, you have oil, you have diesel fuel, gasoline, all those types of things,” Sparks said. “We wanted to make sure there was no leakage of that.”

Authorities say so far there has been no indication that any fluid ever leaked.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, Ottawa County Emergency Management, Park Township Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard were all involved in the salvage of the excavator.

Authorities say boaters and swimmers should avoid the site until the barge is removed. There is no word on how long it will take. 

—News 8 web staff contributed to this report.

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