Failing barge remains in Lagoon Pond

Environmental police are monitoring what owner says is a non-issue.

Vineyard Marine's corroded barge and push tug off Sailing Camp Park in Oak Bluffs. Town officials fear the barge is in imminent danger of sinking and subsequently polluting Lagoon Pond with hydraulic fluid. — Stacey Rupolo

A listing Vineyard Marine barge, which has raised concerns about potential environmental hazards amongst Oak Bluffs and Tisbury harbormasters’ offices because of its potential to sink and pollute Lagoon Pond, is about to move to a new home in Edgartown.

Earlier this week, the barge was moved from a mooring just off Sailing Camp Park to a spot just south of the state’s John T. Hughes Hatchery and Research Station on Shirley Avenue. The move puts the barge approximately a half-mile closer to Lagoon Pond Bridge. A 20-foot push tug previously rafted to the barge is no longer visible.

Told the barge might be headed to Edgartown, harbormaster Charlie Blair’s initial response was “God, I hope not.” During a telephone conversation with The Times, Mr. Blair said Edgartown takes extra effort to keep derelicts out of its waters.

“Getting rid of them is a real headache,” he said. The Vineyard Marine barge is said to be without hatches that would allow for a pump out, a type of deck layout Mr. Blair is familiar with.  Oak Bluffs shellfish committee member Bill Alwardt recommended at a Sept. 26 selectmen’s meeting that a hole be cut in the deck so the barge could be pumped out. Mr. Blair said he thought such an action would require serious evaluation, because it could release all the air that is keeping the barge buoyant.

“Could sink like a stone,” he said.

However, after later learning that Peter Wells appears poised to purchase the barge, Mr. Blair was so confident in the Chappy Ferry owner’s ability to restore the barge, that bringing it into Edgartown waters no longer seemed like a threat.

Reached by telephone, owner Steve Scannell took issue with accusations leveled at him and his barge.

“There’s nothing wrong with my equipment,” he said. He told The Times he’s been in the dock and mooring business since 1986, and possess a license to operate a 100-ton vessel.

“My work speaks for itself,” he said. Mr. Scannell described the faults with the barge as cosmetic, and that insinuations beyond that stem from competitors seeking to undermine his business. Asked if he was keeping the barge, Mr Scannell said, “as far as I know.”

He acknowledged being in contact with environmental policeman Lt. Matt Bass, but declined to elaborate further. “Lieutenant Bass went out to the barge to assess the situation and has been speaking with the owner, who is transferring ownership of the barge to someone else,” Katie Gronendyke, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, wrote in an email to The Times. “Environmental police will continue to monitor the situation.”

Oak Bluffs Harbormaster Todd Alexander confirmed Mr. Wells would be acquiring the barge. “He’ll bring it up to seaworthiness,” he said.

Mr. Alexander would not speculate on how the barge would get to Edgartown. His primary concern is that it leaves Oak Bluffs, he said.

Tisbury Harbormaster John Crocker told the Times that the situation appears to be headed toward resolution. “Sounds like it’s going to a good home,” he said.

Messages left at the Chappy Ferry and the Wells residence were not returned prior to press time.