January 25, 2010

Crews Work To Contain Oil Spill Off Of Texas Coast

Texas State Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said crews worked Sunday to protect two sensitive wildlife areas after a crude oil spill shut down parts of a major southeast Texas port, The Washington Post said.

Patterson said clean-up crews set up plastic walls, known as booms, and oil-sucking skimmer boats to safeguard a lake that is a crucial breeding ground and a wildlife management area that lost its protective gates when Hurricane Ike roared ashore a year and a half ago.

Around 462,000 gallons, or 11,000 barrels, of oil spilled into the water Saturday when an 800-foot tanker headed for an Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery in Beaumont collided with a towing vessel pushing two barges near Port Arthur, about 90 miles east of Houston, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Experts say it is the largest spill in Texas since 1994.

However, the recent spill is not nearly as big as the one 20 years ago that involved Norwegian tanker Mega Borg leaking 4.3 million gallons of crude oil about 60 miles off Galveston.

The Coast Guard said the crew of the damaged tanker, the Eagle Atome, said the remaining 69,000 of the 80,000 barrels of oil in the ship were pumped out.

Some 45,800 feet of booms were deployed to contain the spill, according to Chief Warrant Officer Lionel Bryant of the Coast Guard.

"Because of where it happened, we were able to get teams out there quickly to at least contain it for now, but it's still a tremendously large spill," Bryant said.

Bryant said none of the sensitive wildlife areas had been affected, including Keith Lake, a breeding ground for shrimp and small fish, and the Murphree Wildlife Management Area, where several endangered species have been spotted.

The Coast Guard said no injuries had been reported.