On Saturday, a collision between a ship and barge caused an oil spill that released 168,000 gallons of crude oil into the waterway near the Texas City Dike. The spill produced an oil sheen visible on the water near the Galveston Jetties and East Beach. The spill happened shortly before the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
“Oil companies seem to forget their responsibility to ensure that accidents like this do not happen,” said Mike Papantonio, Ring of Fire host and senior partner with Levin, Papantonio P.A. “The words ‘freak accident’ should not be in an oil company’s vocabulary, nor should negligence exist within their operations.”
The U.S. Coast Guard responded Saturday afternoon after an oil barge carrying nearly one million gallons of oil collided with bulk vessel. The collision caused one of the barge’s cargo tanks to rupture which resulted in the spill of 168,000 gallons of oil, or 4,000 barrels. Service officials have attested to the extremeness of the spill, reporting an expansive oil slick.
“This is an extremely serious spill,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Brian Penoyer. “It is a persistent oil.”
Shortly after the spill, there were reports of sticky black tar that washed ashore at the Texas City Dike beach and East Beach in Galveston, TX. The oil has already impacted some wildlife, mainly local and migratory birds, and is expected to caused extensive damage should the oil not be properly contained. Several areas near the spill are nesting areas for birds, said the Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF), an environmental protection group that focuses on the Galveston, TX area.
“There a lot of bird nest right there on the beaches of Bolivar Flats,” said GBF president Bob Stokes. “Birds would be pretty susceptible to getting oiled wings.”
There is also a threat to marine life because the Gulf Coast is a high-traffic corridor for fish migration. Officials have told local fishermen to not eat any fish they catch around the containment area. Fisherman Geoff Roberts was out fishing on the day of the oil spill and said that oil had gotten on his boat and fishing gear and that there was an excessive amount of oil in the water.
“You could see a big oil slick as far as the eye can see,” said Roberts.
Twenty-seven emergency response vessels arrived at the accident site shortly after the collision happened. The spill was so massive that crews had to use 69,000 feet of containment boom equipment in order to prevent more damage with 140,000 feet on standby. The oil has been described as very thick and tarry, as it is not conventional crude oil.
The barge was carrying RMG 380, which is a “special bunker fuel often used in shipping that doesn’t evaporate easily.” RMG 380 contains some extremely dangerous and deadly chemicals, including hydrogen sulfide. RMG 380 exposure can lead to respiratory, eye, and skin irritation. Hydrogen sulfide vapor can be fatal.
Oil companies regurgitate promise after empty promise to the public. They say they that will do better next time, and that they will “look into the issues and make sure this never happens again.” The last quarter of a century has seen no such results as Exxon and BP, among others, continue their lip service.