A collision involving a tanker and two barges on Friday dumped some 9,000 barrels of fuel into the channel. A fish kill was discovered on Sunday. Officials warned people not to eat shellfish from Galveston Bay.
The Houston Ship Channel was reopened to traffic Sunday after a collision involving a tanker, a tugboat and two barges dumped 9,000 barrels of a toxic chemical, but concerns linger over possible water contamination.
“We have received some reports of wildlife impacts,” Craig Kartye of the Texas General Land Office’s oil spill prevention program told the Houston Chronicle. “Specifically two dead seagulls located near the source of the incident, one dead raccoon in the city of Kemah and some dead fish at one spot along the west shoreline of Galveston Bay.“
Kartye said wildlife rehabilitation teams were responding to the reports.
Galveston Bay Foundation President Bob Stokes told weather.com Monday that the dead fish washed up on property owned by the foundation.
“There were a lot of really small juvenile fish, maybe a thousand and then probably about 200 blue crab,” Stokes said. There were also a few dead adult fish including redfish, sheepshead and flounder.
A pic of the Houston Ship Channel from Listener Captain Adam! pic.twitter.com/QGr1ku9KSI
— Rod Ryan Show (@rodryanshow) May 13, 2019
The ship channel was closed Friday after a 755-foot tanker collided with a tugboat pushing two barges. Some 9,000 barrels of a gasoline blend was released into the water from one of the barges, KHOU reported.
One barge capsized and the other was damaged, leaking a gasoline product called reformate, a highly flammable chemical that is dangerous to marine life, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. Officials said it could take at least two days to remove the hazardous materials from both incapacitated barges because their contents were still underwater.
Residents who live along the water were being advised not to fish or eat any shellfish. A smell of gasoline was also reported in the air over the weekend.
Jim Guidry, executive vice president of Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the barges, told the Chronicle that nearly 400 people were working over the weekend to mitigate impacts and clean up the spill. They deployed 3,800 feet of containment booms around the barges to contain the spill and an additional 12,000 feet to protect sensitive areas around the bay.
Kartye said water samples all came back showing no contamination.
“We’ve collected 2,700 samples, none of which exceeded the established action levels,” he told the Chronicle.
Air samples were also collected. One was found to contain a volatile organic compound, but it did not show up again in subsequent tests, the Associated Press reported.
The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.
The spill was not the first at the port in recent years. A spill in March 2014 released 168,000 gallons of fuel oil, while another in March 2015 released 88,000 gallons of a gasoline additive, according to the Chronicle. Chemicals released into the air during a fire at a chemical plant along the channel in March also caused concern.
The 50-mile-long Houston Ship Channel is one of the busiest ports in the U.S. And probably also one of the most polluted!