TEXAS CITY, TX (KTRK) -- There are several new developments in the aftermath of the accident in the Houston Ship Channel that resulted in thousands of gallons of oil spilling in the waterway, shutting down one of the nation's busiest ports.
We got an update this afternoon from local and state agencies about progress being made with the cleanup.
We learned the Bolivar Ferry is back up and running, though on a 7am to 7pm schedule. What we're waiting to hear, and so are dozens of vessels, is when will the Ship Channel itself will reopen.
Before it can be re-opened, unified command must be sure the impacted areas aren't at risk of future oiling. Vessels involved also have to be cleaned. So at this point, there isn't a timeline.
There are more than 400 active responders on the scene now. Weather has been a major factor in containment, as wind and currents are pushing the oil to shore.
At this point, using a dispersant is not being considered.
As for the investigation into what happened, the NTSB is getting involved. They say liability will be determined by the courts. Right now, they're just collecting evidence. Kirby Inland Marine came forward immediately after the crash, and assumed responsibility for funding the oil spill response.
The General Land Office tells us six birds have been discovered coated in oil so far. A spokesperson says three of them have died. Containment booms are set up to keep any more oil from coming ashore.
"We are defining the problem," said Bruce Clawson with Texas City Emergency Management. "We do it several times and day and that's what we're doing this morning."
They're flying the scene trying to get a handle on how far the oil has spread.
"This spill - I think if we keep our fingers crossed - is not going to have the negative impact that it could have had," said Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, the lead state agency on the response to the spill.
About 168,000 gallons spewed into the busy waterway after a collision between a ship and a barge which was carrying the fuel Saturday. Sixty-nine thousand feet of containment boom has been deployed already as have a number of skimmers.
Authorities call this a significant spill. It's shut down the Ship Channel and for a couple of days, the Bolivar ferry.
Businesses know they'll be closed for days, maybe weeks. But the owner of one bait shop worries about the lingering effects even beyond that.
"Whatever the after affects to all this is, people being scared of the fish, isn't no good to eat and all that," said Lee Rilet of Lee's Bait and Tackle.
Everyone is watching the water today, even visitors.
"We're just making sure,' said Lori Brown.
The spill happened the day Brown got here from Minnesota. She hasn't seen any oil on the beach yet and says she hopes to keep it that way.
"We're not gonna let it ruin our trip," she said.
Fishing has been closed along the Texas City Dike. A sticky tar-like substance has washed up along the shoreline of the Dike, a 5 mile long jetty that juts out into Galveston Bay across from Galveston Island.
The public is reminded to refrain from capturing any potentially affected wildlife you're urged to contact Wildlife Response Service at 1-888-384-2000 if you come across any.
About the company
Kirby Inland Marine is the nation's largest operator of inland tank barges and towing vessels and lists environmental excellence as one of its seven core principles. Jim Guidry, who is in charge of the company's vessel operations, spoke at one of Sunday's press conference.
"Safety is one of our franchises to operate and so we focus on safety and navigation safety in training," he said.
In 2011, the state of Texas recognized the company for its efforts to protect coastal environments. But earlier this month, Kirby was the operator of a fuel oil barge that collided with a rice tanker in the Ship Shannel. There were no injuries and no leaks from that collision and Ship Channel traffic was unaffected.
Last April, Kirby Inland was the owner of a pair of empty fuel tank barges that exploded while being cleaned by another company in Mobile, Alabama. Three people were injured.