On the afternoon of April 27, 2003, Barge B-120, owned and operated by the Bouchard Transportation Company (Bouchard), grounded on a shoal after entering the western approach to Buzzards Bay from the south. The grounding ruptured the hull of the barge, causing the subsequent release of approximately 22,000 to 98,000 gallons of its No. 6 fuel oil cargo. The actual volume of the spill is unknown, but has been approximated by various investigators using scientific methods that factor in the speed of the vessel at the time of impact, water, temperature, wind and current conditions, etc. In the days following the release, oil was driven ashore by winds and currents. Oil came ashore in areas throughout the bay including Westport, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Marion, Wareham, Bourne, Falmouth and the Elizabeth Islands (Gosnold) in Massachusetts. Oil also came ashore in Rhode Island in the town of Little Compton and on Block Island.
Oil covers the shoreline at Barneys Joy beach in Dartmouth after the 2003 Bouchard oil spill., Credit: Buzzards Bay Coalition