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Houston Channel bunker spill update

Houston Ship Channel remains closed following 4000-barrel bunker spill.



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Updated on 24 Mar 2014 10:52 GMT

Progress continued throughout the day Sunday in response to a bunker fuel spill in the Houston Ship Channel that is said to have resulted in the release of approximately 4,000 barrels (168,000 gallons) of product.

The spill took place on Saturday, March 22, when a barge containing around 22,000 barrels (924,000 gallons) of marine fuel, which was being towed by the vessel Miss Susan from Texas City to the Bolivar Peninsula, was struck by the 585-foot bulk carrier Summer Wind, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The incident forced authorities to evacuate the dike and surrounding areas — and to close the Houston Ship Channel. Authorities also suspended operations of the ferry between Galveston and Port Bolivar. Traffic in and out of the ports of Texas City and Galveston was also halted.

Responding agencies report that more than 69,000 feet of containment boom have now been deployed on waters surrounding the incident site and along sensitive shorelines in the area. An additional 141,000 feet of boom has been staged for possible deployment.

Approximately 24 response vessels are actively working to skim the oil. Responders were able to complete transferring product inside the barge’s damaged compartment to a second barge. The damaged barge was then moved to a safer location for responders until it can be removed to a local shipyard for further assessment and repair.

Changing currents, winds and weather conditions have necessitated response officials to further extend containment and oil recovery plans further into the Gulf of Mexico and south along Galveston Island.

The Bolivar ferry remains closed to traffic, and a safety zone, established on Saturday to ensure the wellbeing of response workers and prevent the further spread of oil, has been extended from lighted buoy 40 to lighted buoy 3 on the Houston Ship Channel.

This safety zone restricts the transit of vessels not involved in the response from entering the area. Coast Guard officials did allow two cruise ships to travel through the incident area by late afternoon to minimize inconvenience to the thousands of passengers aboard and limit economic impacts from the spill. However, neither vessel will be allowed to leave the port again until it is deemed safe to do so.

Officials report that the first recovery of oiled birds occurred on Sunday afternoon; fewer than 10 impacted birds were sighted and recovered for transfer to a wildlife rehabilitation facility.

"Protection of the environment remains a high priority and responders are working in tandem with Texas Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Wildlife Response Services to respond to new reports that should arise. The Texas General Land Office has also deployed a bird rehabilitation trailer in the area for quick response to impacted wildlife," the US Coast Guard said.






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