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Carcinogen spills in Houston Ship Channel after collision involving 755-foot oil tanker and barges

Posted at 8:46 PM, May 11, 2019

HOUSTON — Ship and barge traffic is resuming in the Houston Ship Channel as cleanup efforts continue in the aftermath of a spill that sent thousands of barrels of gasoline blending product into the channel, officials said Sunday.

The spill came after a collision in the channel Friday between a 755-foot oil tanker and a tug pushing two barges. The impact capsized one barge, damaged the other and triggered the leak of gasoline blending stock that the barges were carrying, the US Coast Guard said.

The barges — pushed by the towing vessel Voyager — were loaded with the gasoline blending component reformate, which leaked into the water after the collision near Bayport, Texas, officials said.

About 9,000 barrels of reformate spilled into the channel, according to incident commander Jim Guidry, an executive with Kirby Inland Marine, owner and operator of the Voyager.

There were no reported injuries during the collision with the tanker, the Genesis River.

An estimated 25,000 barrels of gasoline blend stock were loaded on each barge, a Coast Guard statement said.

Federal, state and local agencies are involved in the cleanup and environmental monitoring. A statement from those agencies Sunday said that the damaged barges have been secured and efforts were underway to remove cargo from the barges.

“Work is expected to continue throughout the day with an established priority of ensuring the protection of (Galveston) Bay from the additional release of product,” the statement said.

Officials at a news conference Sunday said some 2,700 air monitoring samples from the area had been taken and none of them exceeded “established action levels,” meaning they don’t pose a health risk at this point.

Water quality testing is being done along the bay, the statement said.