By Harvey Rice, Houston Chronicle
Jun. 2–GALVESTON — There is no indication that oil from the BP blowout off the Louisiana Coast is heading for Texas, but equipment and trained manpower are ready to deal with it if it does, officials said Tuesday.
Officials from Harris, Galveston and Brazoria counties called a news conference to reassure their constituents that the oil slick remains a long way from Texas. But they admitted unknowns exist, such as what would happen if a hurricane pushes the spill this way.
“It’s not moving to the west, but the public is increasingly asking … what happens if?” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said. Because of the queries, officials decided, “We’ve got to have a meeting and tell everyone what is going on,” Emmett said.
Emmett said Harris County residents were unlikely to see oil even if it gets as far as Texas. “Galveston and Brazoria will bear the brunt,” he said.
Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough said the oil spill was far from Texas. “There is no reason for them not to come and enjoy the entire Texas coastline,” Yarbrough said.
On lookout for tar balls
If oil from the spill reaches Texas, it will likely be in the form of tar balls, said Capt. Marcus Woodring, U.S. Coast Guard sector commander for Houston-Galveston. He said tar balls found along Texas shores so far have been analyzed and are not from the spill. Tar balls are common along the Gulf Coast because of minor oil spills and natural seepage, he said.
As a precaution, floating barriers are already being placed in washout areas on the Bolivar Peninsula to protect the wetlands behind them, he said.
Woodring said the spill is about 400 miles away and is being monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
He said shipping in the Houston area continues uninterrupted.
Richard Arnhart, regional director of the Texas General Land Office’s oil spill response, said that his office monitored sensor-equipped buoys in the Gulf that would give an early warning of approaching oil. The buoys are able to a limited extent to monitor underwater plumes of oil, but not at great depths, he said.
The underwater oil plumes carried by deep currents remain one of the unknowns. Another is how a hurricane would affect the spill, Woodring said. “If it arrives here with a hurricane? That’s a good question,” he said.
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