*UPDATED 3/26/14 2:45 p.m.*
The Coast Guard is ramping up efforts to clean oil in the Ports of Texas City and Galveston Wednesday, as expected afternoon weather will likely hinder or cease operations due to safety concerns for responders.
Storms may keep responders from being able to safely collect oil on the water and along the shoreline. Response efforts will focus heavily on cleaning Pelican Island and north to the Texas City Dike until weather makes operations too hazardous for responders.
The weather is also expected to flush out pockets of oil that were unreachable to responders over the past few days. Once weather abates, responders will be re-assessing the area to update cleanup plans for immediate action.
Weather conditions Tuesday in the Ports of Texas City and Galveston pushed oil 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, and into a southwesterly direction along the coast. The Unified Command has established a second Incident Command Post in Port O’Connor to prepare to protect the environment in the Matagorda area. Responders and equipment began arriving in the vicinity of Matagorda Tuesday, and will continue arriving throughout Wednesday. Protection tactics outlined in the area contingency plan are already being put in place.
At this time, volunteers for the incident will no longer be accepted and added to the mailing list. There is a database that currently includes a large number of volunteers that have been waiting patiently to volunteer, and will be utilized first. Once operational needs exhaust the list, new volunteers will be accepted.
Under Federal Law, only those individuals with special training and certifications are permitted to clean up oil, oiled debris or wildlife. These individuals are working under the Unified Command and have been assigned to those tasks accordingly. Those who do not hold the special training and certifications affiliated to this incident are not permitted to handle or collect oil, oiled debris or wildlife. These laws and regulations are in place to protect your health and safety which is our top priority.
Recreational boating and fishing is still open, however general mariners are not allowed to operate in the safety zone without permission due to portions of Galveston Bay and offshore areas experiencing floating oil. They are advised to avoid sheen or floating oil outside the safety zone if encountered and to report it.
General mariners outside the safety zones have no restrictions on their movement or activities, but please avoid sheen and floating oil and report it if encountered.
Oiled commercial fishing vessels currently anchored or moored within the safety zone must be cleared by the incident command post prior to movement. Unfouled commercial fishing vessels may transit the safety zone, however no fishing activities are permitted within the safety zone.
Deep draft vessels will continue to coordinate movement through the Vessel Traffic Service.
General mariners are required to heed the following safety zones:
- The Entire Texas City Channel
- Galveston Bay Entrance (Buoy 1C) to Houston Ship Channel Buoy 44
- Galveston Channel Entrance to Pelican Island Bridge
- Intracoastal Waterway Buoy 13 to Intracoastal Waterway Buoy 20 (Galveston/Freeport Cutoff)
*UPDATED 3/26/14 10:00 a.m.*
Weather conditions in the Port of Houston/Galveston pushed oil 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, and into a southwesterly direction along the coast. The Unified Command has begun preparations to prevent potential environmental impact in the Matagorda area, as Wednesday’s weather forecast may push some of the contaminant to the shore. Response personnel, wildlife resources and protective equipment are being deployed out of Port Lavaca in accordance with the tactics outlined in the Area Contingency Plan.
A vessel decontamination plan has been formulated to assist vessels that may have been impacted by oil. The sites of the stations are Pelican Cut, Galveston and Bolivar. To schedule a vessel decontamination call 832-244-1870.
Most recent details from the response efforts are as follows:
- Total nonconsecutive shoreline impacted – 18.9 miles
- Recovered gallons of oily-water – 175,098 gals.
- Recovered bags of solid waste – 1,799 bags
- Total gallons of oil evaporated – 18,480 gals.
- Natural dispersion rate of oil – 2,100 gals.
- Total containment boom deployed – 69,268'
- Total containment boom staged – 253,300'
- Additional containment boom ordered – 5,400'
- Response vessels assigned – 70 vessels
- Total personnel in the field – 940
- Total personnel in the incident command post - 324
*UPDATED 3/25/14 2:15 p.m.*
The Coast Guard has authorized limited marine traffic in the safety zone in the Port of Houston/Galveston for commercial ship traffic. The safety zone was established after Saturday afternoon's collision between the bulk carrier Summer Wind and a 300'x54'x12' barge, towed by the motor vessel Miss Susan, resulted in the release of approximately 168,000 gals. of bunker fuel in the Houston Ship Channel.
The barge, owned by Kirby Inland Marine who also owns the towboat involved in the incident, has 26,741-bbl. capacity in six tanks. One of those tanks was ruptured in the accident. The bulk carrier is property of Sea Galaxy Marine.
Clean up operations are still ongoing, however ships are being prioritized for transit by the Port Coordination Team. Barges are being allowed to transit through the Houston Ship Channel and on the Intracoastal Waterway, after assessment teams deemed the channel clear.
As of Monday evening, there were 46 outbound vessels and 47 inbound vessels in the queue for transit in the Port of Houston. The Port of Texas City has 5 inbound and 3 outbound vessels in the queue awaiting transit.
The Galveston Bolivar ferry is now running and will be operating between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Responding agencies operating in a Unified Command structure report that more than 71,000' of containment boom has now been deployed on waters surrounding the incident site and along sensitive shorelines in the area. An additional 232,600' of boom has been staged for possible deployment and another 5,400' has been ordered.
There is approximately 15.5 miles of nonconsecutive impacted shoreline.
Response personnel have collected approximately 164,892 gals. of oil-water mixture. They have also collected 852 bags of solid waste. A majority of the solid waste was collected from Big Reef, Pelican Island, East Beach and Texas City Dike. The waste products include oiled debris, oil sand mixture and snare boom.
To date, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports evaporation of 16,800 gals. and a natural dispersion rate of 1,680 gals. of spilled fuel oil.
Approximately 70 response vessels are actively working to skim and recover oil with more than 539 personnel actively on-scene and another 218 responding in the incident command post. Importantly, 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.
Air monitoring continues throughout the general area, although readings have consistently shown no reason for health concerns.
There have been 18 birds confirmed captured and 10 deceased. The public is reminded to refrain from capturing any potentially affected wildlife and is urged to contact 888-384-2000 if oiled wildlife is observed. Reporting photos of wildlife can also be emailed to [email protected]. 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 incident response is being coordinated by a unified command, which consists of a wide variety of federal, state and local government agencies, non-profit organizations and the owners of the damaged barge, Kirby Inland Marine. Coordinating agencies include the United States Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office, and Galveston County Office of Emergency Management. Other agencies participating in the response include U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Galveston City Office of Emergency Management, Texas City Office of Emergency Management, and the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health.
For those interested in volunteering, a list is being developed. Please call 713-435-1562.
The Coast Guard investigation into the incident is ongoing.