On Saturday there was a collision in Galveston Bay between an oil barge and another ship, which resulted in an oil spill in the bay.
One effect of this was that all traffic was blocked on Sunday in one of the busiest waterways in the world for the transportation of petrochemicals.
Unfortunately, the barge, which was carrying heavy marine fuel, was holed, and the thick, sticky oil started to leak into the sea. The maximum capacity of the barge is a million gallons, but it seems only one tank containing just 168,000 gallons, was actually damaged. Coast Guard Petty Officer Andy Kendrick said it wasn’t clear how much oil spilled.
Containment booms were immediately deployed to protect environmentally sensitive areas, and cleanup crews started the arduous task of skimming the oil from the water surface.
The Houston ship channel is closed between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, said Coast Guard Lt. Sam Danus.
One major reason for concern over the effect of the oil spill is that the area is a popular bird habitat; as yet, there have been no reports of any wildlife being involved
Of course, the Coast Guard are investigating the incident.
The captain of the Summer Wind first reported the spill just after noon Saturday. Six crew members from the tow vessel were injured.
The owners of the tow vessel and barge, Kirby Inland Marine, are cooperating with the Texas General Land Office and many other federal, state and nonprofit agencies.
Jim Suydam, spokesman for the Texas’ General Land Office, said that the oil was particularly thick and viscous. “That stuff is terrible to have to clean up.”
The shorebird habitat on both sides of the channel attracts up to 70,000 birds, as the shallow mudflats are a perfect environment for foraging.
Richard Gibbons of the Houston Audubon Society, said, “The timing really couldn’t be much worse since we’re approaching the peak shorebird migration season.
In a strange quirk of history, Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska.
That spill spurred the creation of the General Land Office’s Oil Spill and Prevention Division, which is funded by a tax on imported oil that the state legislature passed after the Valdez spill.