As many as 170,000 gallons of heavy oil have spilled into the Houston Ship Channel after a barge and a ship collided Saturday. A barge loaded with heavy oil was partially submerged Saturday, March 22, 2014, in the Houston Ship Channel in Texas after colliding with another ship.
By Alan Neuhauser March 24, 2014
One of the nation’s busiest shipping channels remained closed Monday, nearly two days after thousands of gallons spilled into the waterway and Gulf of Mexico following a collision between a barge and another ship.
The barge, carrying about 900,000 gallons of oil, struck a ship in the Houston Ship Channel in Texas on Saturday afternoon, leaking many as 170,000 gallons of oil into the channel, which is near a bird sanctuary.
By Sunday, oil had been found as far as 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Officials closed the shipping channel to lay oil-absorbent booms and skim oil from the water. The Coast Guard called the incident a “significant spill,” but more due to its location than its size.
“The real issue is that it’s in the ship channel, near environmentally sensitive areas. So there’s an economic impact and an environmental impact,” Michael Lambert, spokesman for the Galveston County (Texas) Office of Emergency Management, told the Los Angeles Times.
The incident occurred almost exactly 25 years after the Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, which spewed about 10 million gallons of oil in one of the worst spills in the nation’s history. Saturday’s spill also came roughly four years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which ultimately leaked more than 200 million gallons of oil.
“On the scale of the Valdez, this is not even a blip," Lambert said. "It’s a lot of oil, but it’s not a Valdez or a Deepwater Horizon.”
Dozens of ships have been blocked as a result of the shipping channel’s closure. Meanwhile, officials at the bird sanctuary, Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, and other groups have reported spotting birds covered in oil.
"Oiled birds are being taken to triage trailers with hot water and basic facilities to begin cleaning the birds, staged near the spill area,” a scientist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told the Los Angeles Times.