US Coast Guard: Texas Barge Collision May Have Spilled Up to 2,000 Gallons of Oil

According to the US Coast Guard, up to 2,000 gallons of oil may have leaked into the waters near Galveston, Texas, after a barge carrying fuel broke loose from a tugboat and collided with a bridge on Wednesday. The collision with a support pillar of the Pelican Island Causeway led to a partial collapse of the bridge, severing the only road link between Galveston and Pelican Island.

Footage showed oil spilling from the barge into Galveston Bay. Jeff Davis of the Texas General Land Office stated that initial cleanup efforts have not found any affected wildlife. The barge, which has a capacity of 30,000 barrels, was carrying 23,000 barrels, or about 966,000 gallons, at the time of the incident. Rick Freed, vice president of Martin Marine, the barge operator, mentioned that only one tank, holding around 160,000 gallons, was compromised.

Coast Guard Captain Keith Donohue expressed confidence that the actual oil spillage was much less than initially estimated. Cleanup operations have so far recovered over 605 gallons of oily water and 5,640 gallons of oil from the barge itself. A containment boom has been deployed to restrict the spill, affecting around 6.5 miles of the waterway.

The Coast Guard attributed the incident to a break in the coupling between the tugboat and the 321-foot barge, not weather conditions. The barge remains beside the bridge, weighed down by debris. The bridge closure impacts only incoming traffic, while outgoing vehicles and pedestrians can still cross.

Texas A&M University at Galveston, located on Pelican Island, advised staff and faculty to leave and closed the campus temporarily, although essential personnel will stay. The university is arranging transportation and accommodation for those who choose to leave.

Despite the environmental concerns, the incident is not expected to cause significant economic disruption in the region, according to Maria Burns, a maritime transportation expert at the University of Houston. The spill occurred away from major shipping channels like the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Houston Ship Channel. This incident follows a similar accident in March when a cargo ship hit the Francis Key Bridge in Baltimore, resulting in six fatalities.

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