Mar 23, 2014 9:47 PM by katc
Progress continued throughout the day Sunday in response to a bunker fuel spill in the Houston Ship Channel that resulted in the release of approximately 168,000 gallons of product. Responding agencies operating in a Unified Command structure report that more than 69,000 feet of containment boom has 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. 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.
The Bolivar ferry remains closed to traffic, and a safety zone, established on Saturday to ensure the well-being 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 deemed safe to do so.
Persons with questions regarding the cruise ships' transit plans are urged to contact those individual cruise lines for specific information.
In an abundance of caution, air monitoring continues throughout the general area, although readings have consistently shown no reason for health concerns.
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 established by the Unified Command. 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 Unified Command and Kirby Inland Marine have activated several telephone numbers to assist persons with questions regarding various aspects of the incident:
Joint Information Center: 409-978-2788