Barge leaking oil in Galveston Bay after collision

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A barge carrying 924,000 gallons of thick, tarry fuel oil collided Saturday with another ship in the Houston ship channel and was leaking oil, officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement Saturday that it received a call at about 12:30 p.m. from the captain of the 585-foot ship Summer Wind reporting its collision with a barge.

The barge was being towed from Texas City to Bolivar at the time. Kirby Inland Marine, owner of the tow vessel Miss Susan and the barges, is working with the Coast Guard and Texas General Land Office at the scene, according to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard did not give an estimate of how much oil had leaked into Galveston Bay.

A sheen of oil was been reported on the water, but it was unknown how much oil had leaked, the statement said. Six crew members of the tow vessel are all in stable condition.

Jim Suydam, spokesman for the General Land Office, described the type of oil the barge was carrying as "sticky, gooey, thick, tarry stuff."

"That stuff is terrible to have to clean up," he said.

Mild weather and calm water seemed to helping efforts. He said about every private cleanup outfit in the area was out there under the coordination of the Coast Guard and General Land Office.

Texas City Homeland Security director Bruce Clawson told The Daily News in Galveston that the barge sank and that there is no danger to the community. Suydam said he could not confirm whether the barge sank.

A segment of the Houston ship channel was closed to traffic, the Coast Guard said. Texas City is about 40 miles southeast of downtown Houston.

A man who answered the phone at Kirby Inland Marine Saturday declined to give his name and said he wasn't able to comment.

On its Facebook page, Texas City Emergency Management said the dike and all parks on the water are closed until further notice.

The spill occurs near the 25-year anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska. Suydam said that spill spurred the creation of the General Land Office's Oil Spill and Prevention Division, which is funded by a tax on imported oil that the state legislature passed after the Valdez spill. The division does extensive response planning including pre-positioned equipment along the Texas coast.

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