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Texas

Guard: ‘This is a significant spill’

Officials estimate 168,000 gallons

  • A black sticky oily substance is shown along the beach at the Texas City Dike near the barge spill cleanup site Sunday, March 23, 2014 in Texas City. Officials say the material is consistent with how oil could appear when it impacts beaches.  However it would have to be analyzed to determine its origin. A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)

    A black sticky oily substance is shown along the beach at the Texas City Dike near the barge spill cleanup site Sunday, March 23, 2014 in Texas City. Officials say the material is consistent with how oil could appear when it impacts beaches. However it would have to be analyzed to determine its origin. A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)

  • A black sticky oily substance is shown along the beach at the Texas City Dike near the barge spill cleanup site Sunday, March 23, 2014 in Texas City. Officials say the material is consistent with how oil could appear when it impacts beaches.  However it would have to be analyzed to determine its origin. A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)

    A black sticky oily substance is shown along the beach at the Texas City Dike near the barge spill cleanup site Sunday, March 23, 2014 in Texas City. Officials say the material is consistent with how oil could appear when it impacts beaches. However it would have to be analyzed to determine its origin. A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)

  • Emergency crews work along a barge that spilled oil after it was struck by a ship near the Texas City Dike, Sunday, March 23, 2014, in Texas City. The barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)

    Emergency crews work along a barge that spilled oil after it was struck by a ship near the Texas City Dike, Sunday, March 23, 2014, in Texas City. The barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)

  • The body of a duck covered in heavy crude oil lays on the beach along Boddeker Road in Galveston, Texas on Sunday March 23, 2014. The oil is leaking from a disabled barge, that collided with a ship Saturday near the Texas City Dike. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Jennifer Reynolds)

    The body of a duck covered in heavy crude oil lays on the beach along Boddeker Road in Galveston, Texas on Sunday March 23, 2014. The oil is leaking from a disabled barge, that collided with a ship Saturday near the Texas City Dike. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Jennifer Reynolds)

  • A barge loaded with marine fuel oil sits partially submerged in the Houston Ship Channel, March 22, 2014. The bulk carrier Summer Wind, reported a collision between the Summer Wind and the barge, containing 924,000 gallons of fuel oil. The barge collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, PO3 Manda Emery)

    A barge loaded with marine fuel oil sits partially submerged in the Houston Ship Channel, March 22, 2014. The bulk carrier Summer Wind, reported a collision between the Summer Wind and the barge, containing 924,000 gallons of fuel oil. The barge collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, PO3 Manda Emery)

  • A black sticky oily substance is shown along the beach at the Texas City Dike near the barge spill cleanup site Sunday, March 23, 2014 in Texas City. Officials say the material is consistent with how oil could appear when it impacts beaches.  However it would have to be analyzed to determine its origin. A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)
  • A black sticky oily substance is shown along the beach at the Texas City Dike near the barge spill cleanup site Sunday, March 23, 2014 in Texas City. Officials say the material is consistent with how oil could appear when it impacts beaches.  However it would have to be analyzed to determine its origin. A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)
  • Emergency crews work along a barge that spilled oil after it was struck by a ship near the Texas City Dike, Sunday, March 23, 2014, in Texas City. The barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)
  • The body of a duck covered in heavy crude oil lays on the beach along Boddeker Road in Galveston, Texas on Sunday March 23, 2014. The oil is leaking from a disabled barge, that collided with a ship Saturday near the Texas City Dike. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Jennifer Reynolds)
  • A barge loaded with marine fuel oil sits partially submerged in the Houston Ship Channel, March 22, 2014. The bulk carrier Summer Wind, reported a collision between the Summer Wind and the barge, containing 924,000 gallons of fuel oil. The barge collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, PO3 Manda Emery)

A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared yesterday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as about a fifth of its cargo into the waterway.

Coast Guard officials said up to 168,000 gallons were dumped after one of the barge’s tanks ruptured and that oil had been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico as yesterday afternoon.

“This is a significant spill,” said Capt. Brian Penoyer, commander of the Coast Guard at Houston-Galveston.

But he said the emptying of the barge yesterday, a process known as lightering as contents are transferred to other vessels, was an important step as it had eliminated the risk of additional oil spilling.

The channel, one of the world’s busiest waterways for moving petrochemicals, was shut for a second day yesterday. As many as 60 vessels were backed up both trying to get out and get in.

More than 380 people – “and we’ve ordered more,” Penoyer said – plus a fleet of oil-retrieving skimmers and other vessels deploying some 60,000 feet of containment booms around environmentally sensitive areas worked to mitigate the damage.

The area is home to popular bird habitats, especially during the approaching migratory shorebird season.

Officials said they had scattered reports of wildlife damage but no specifics. Some black tar-like globs, along with a dark line of a sticky, oily substance, could be detected along the shoreline of the Texas City dike, a 5-mile-long jetty that juts into Galveston Bay across from a tip of Galveston Island.

“That is the consistency of what the cargo looks like,” said Jim Guidry, executive vice president of Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine Corp., the nation’s largest inland barge company and owner of the barge, when the substance was described to him at a news conference.

“We’re very concerned. We’re focused on cleaning up,” he said.

He said the company was taking responsibility for the costs.

The barge has been moved to a shipyard and is no longer at the scene of the spill, according to a statement yesterday evening from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office.

There was no timetable for a total reopening of the channel, which typically handles as many as 80 vessels daily.

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