Saturday, March 22, 170,000 gallons of thick, tar-like oil was dumped into the Gulf of Mexico’s Galveston Bay. The Associated Press reports:
A barge carrying about 900,000 gallons of the heavy oil collided with a ship Saturday in the busy Houston Ship Channel, spilling as much as a fifth of its cargo into one of the world’s busiest waterways for moving petrochemicals, according to the Coast Guard.
Oil had been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico by Sunday, and as many as 60 vessels were either waiting to get in or out. The Coast Guard – which called it a “significant spill” – said it expected to deploy more containment booms Monday, with 24 vessels working to skim the oil.
The channel, one of the world’s busiest waterways for moving petrochemicals, was shut for a second day Sunday. As many as 60 vessels were backed up both trying to get out and get in. The area is also home to popular bird habitats, but fewer than 10 impacted birds have been sighted and recovered.
While at a much smaller scale, the timing of the spill adds an extra layer of resonance to it, as Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill, which put nearly 10.8 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s waters. “This is a significant spill,” Capt. Brian Penoyer, commander of the Coast Guard at Houston-Galveston, said.