Bolivar Ferry operations resume after Houston Ship Channel oil spill

U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery

UPDATE: The Bolivar ferry resumed 24/7 operations as of 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, March 26. Ferry operators asked that passengers remain in their vehicles during transit as there is still oil in the water.

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Efforts to contain and recover oil spilled after a collision that occurred Saturday, March 22, 2014, in the Houston Ship Channel continue with an aggressive deployment of all available response resources, the Coast Guard said in a press release Sunday.

Lightering operations to transfer remaining oil from the damaged barge were complete Sunday. After the barges are decontaminated the damaged barge will be taken to a local shipyard for assessment and needed repairs.

According to the Coast Guard, the primary emphasis remains the safety of response personnel working in the area and the protection of environmentally sensitive habitats, including birds and marine life.

The Unified Command, consisting of a wide variety of federal, state and local government agencies have expanded the safety zone to include all areas between Lighted Buoy 3 and Lighted Buoy 40, to prevent other vessels from interfering with the response efforts and from inadvertently facilitating the spread of oil. 

Approximately 35,000 feet of boom has been deployed in containment efforts and to mitigate the affect on the environment. The area immediately surrounding the damaged barge was quickly boomed on Saturday afternoon. The maximum capacity of the breached tank is 168,000 gallons of marine fuel oil. The amount of released product still being assessed at this time.

The Bolivar Ferry operations are suspended until the spill is contained and continued to be closed as of Sunday evening. Persons with questions regarding transportation issues may call (409) 795-2230. Ongoing air monitoring continues to show that there is no potential harm to residents or businesses in the area.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, the state of Texas has directed all necessary resources to assist with the cleanup of oil that has spilled into the Houston Ship Channel after a collision between vessels Saturday, March 22. The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) is ensuring the coordination of the multiple state resources responding to this incident, and Gov. Rick Perry has been briefed by TDEM Chief Nim Kidd on the ongoing cleanup efforts.

The U.S. Coast Guard is the lead agency for maritime incidents such as this, while the Texas General Land Office is the lead state agency for cleanup efforts. The responsible parties are also assisting in the response to this incident. Additional state agencies and emergency response units are working to ensure public health and safety, and to protect the surrounding environment and wildlife.

The Texas General Land Office has deployed multiple personnel to the incident site to manage the cleanup effort, and resources from the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are also assisting in this effort.

Wildlife Response Services, a Texas-based wildlife rehabilitation service has also been deployed to assist with any impacted birds or marine life.  Persons who observe any impacted wildlife are urged to call 888-384-2000. As of 10 a.m. Sunday, there have been no reports of affected marine or wildlife.

A claims number has been established for persons who may have questions in regard to personal impact by the incident. The number is (855) 276-1275.

For more information contact the response joint information center at (409) 978-2788.

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