TEXAS CITY, Texas - Several state, federal and local agencies are involved in a massive cleanup after an oil spill from a collision near the Texas City Dike.
The U.S. Coast Guard and its state and local partners responded after the accident happened at around 12:35 p.m. Saturday, approximately 400-500 yards off the dike. The captain of the 585-foot bulk carrier, Summer Wind, called the Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston to report the collision between the Summer Wind and a barge that contained 924,000 gallons of fuel oil, towed by the motor vessel Miss Susan.
According to Bruce Clawson, Texas City's Emergency Manager, the barge was partially sunk and contained a "very heavy oil."
The U.S. Coast Guard says approximately 168,000 gallons of product was released in the collision.
During a press conference Sunday afternoon, the Coast Guard says all 900,000 or so gallons were removed from the barge, including what was remaining in the damaged cargo tank.
According to the Coast Guard, the oil is not only in the Galveston Bay but is moving further out into the Gulf of Mexico and south of Galveston Island due to the wind and tides.
More than 69,000 feet of containment booms is being used to prevent the oil from spreading to sensitive areas. Another 141,000 feet of boom is ready for possible deployment.
About 27 response vessels, including five large recovery skimmers, are working to retrieve the leaked oil.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Houston Ship Channel is closed to traffic. About 43 outbound vessels and 38 inbound vessels are in the queue for transit. Once the channel is deemed safe to navigate and will not spread oil, a prioritization list will determine the entry order of vessels, the Coast Guard says.
An early Sunday morning arrival for two cruise ships was delayed due to fog and the oil spill.
The USCG says it has arranged access for two cruise ships -- the Carnival Magic and the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas-- to pass through the restricted cleanup area and into port.
According to Clawson, two people were injured during the initial incident after being overcome by hydrogen sulfide fumes. They were transported to a hospital.
Fisherman Geoff Roberts of Texas City said his fishing trip was cut short after he began reeling in oil on his lines.
"At first, the oil was going up the ship channel, then a couple of hours later it was coming through the back of the dike," said Roberts.
There are no public advisories issued, but the Coast Guard encourages people not to come in contact with the oil.
The Coast Guard says it has received a few reports of wildlife injuries, and a wildlife rehabilitation center has been set up. As of Monday morning there have been three confirmed captured and three deceased birds, according to USCG.
The Houston Audubon Society estimates 60 birds have been found with varying degrees of oil on them.
The public is reminded to refrain from capturing any potentially affected wildlife and is urged to contact Wildlife Response Service at 888-384-2000.
Ferry service between Galveston and Bolivar is still suspended due to the incident. The public can contact the Ferry Office for status updates at (409) 795-2230.
A claims number has been established for persons or businesses that may have questions in regard to impact by the incident. For claims, call 855-276-1275.
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