Boat collision off Texas coast leads to oil spill

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Safety and recovery teams were continuing their effort today to clean up an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast with the planned deployment of four skimming vessels as another 20 vessels stood ready to help, according to the Coast Guard.

"This is a very significant discharge" of oil, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. j.g. Kristopher Kidd said in a statement.

The barge contained 168,000 gallons of fuel oil and has partially sunk, officials said, although the extent of the spill remains unclear.

Responding agencies operating under a unified command said more than 69,000 feet of containment boom has been deployed on waters surrounding the incident site and along sensitive shorelines in the area, according to the Coast Guard.

About 12:35 p.m. on Saturday, watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston received a call from the captain of the 585-foot bulk carrier Summer Wind, reporting a collision between the Summer Wind and a barge that contained 924,000 gallons of fuel oil and was being towed by a workboat.

The workboat was transiting from Texas City to Bolivar at the time of the collision. The six crewmembers on the workboat were all accounted for and were in stable condition, the Coast Guard said.

The spill could pose a risk to migratory birds who have their habitat on both shores of the channel, but fewer than 10 oiled birds were sighted and recovered for transfer to a wildlife rehabilitation facility, according to a Coast Guard statement during the weekend.

As timing would have it, today marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez crude oil spill, which resulted in a spill of about 258,000 barrels (10,836,000 gallons) on Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

Though it was not the largest in U.S. history, the Valdez spill is the most seminal, leading directly to enactment of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which mandated double hulls for new tankers, response plans and a number of other remedial measures.

The ship’s name and its captain, Joseph Hazelwood, became synonymous with incompetence and corporate greed for valuing profit over environmental safety.

This report on the anniversary by the Anchorage Daily News shows that many Alaskans are still living with the effects of the Valdez spill.

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