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Thousands of Gallons of Fuel Leaked in Houston Ship Channel Barge Accident

17 June 2015No Comments

houston-ship-canalA part of the vital waterway in the Houston Ship Channel was temporarily shut down after a barge collided with a docked vessel, spilling up to 23,000 gallons of fuel and forcing the temporary closure. According to a news release from the Coast Guard, luckily, no one was injured in the accident. However, the vital section of the Houston Ship Channel waterway consisting of about 1.5 miles of the upper portion of the channel, was closed for almost two hours. The anchored barge was carrying more than 1 million gallons of naphthalene. The Coast Guard stated that about 23,000 gallons of the toxic, flammable liquid leaked into the waterway, however, it was expected to evaporate within a few hours.


Naphthalene is primarily used in the production of phthalic anhydride, an ingredient used in mothballs. The liquid is also found in carbamate insecticides, surface active agents and resins, as a dye intermediate, as a synthetic tanning agent, and as a moth repellent. Humans  acutely exposed to naphthalene by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact, can cause hemolytic anemia, damage to the liver, cataracts, and neurological damage.  Symptoms of acute exposure include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, malaise, confusion, anemia, jaundice, convulsions, and coma.
Both of the barges are operated by Kirby Inland Marine Transportation based in Houston. A spokesman from Kirby, Matt Woodruff, stated that the cargo was safely transferred from the damaged barge to another vessel. The Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies and responders all worked together to ensure the safety of people in the area. “Upon consultation with the NOAA support coordinator, their models showed that most of the product would evaporate in approximately three hours,” said Commander Eric Carrero, the federal on-scene coordinator for the Coast Guard. “We are continuing to ensure the safety of personnel and the environment.” An incident command post has been established in Channelview to coordinate response efforts. A number of agencies have been working together including the Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office, the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, Deer Park Emergency Operations Center, Galena Emergency Operations Center, Port of Houston, Kirby Inland Marine, The Response Group and T&T Salvage.


This is the third time this year that the Houston Ship Channel has been shut down due to ship collisions. Back in March, two tankers collided, causing flammable liquid, identified as MTBE, to leak into the water. The tanker was identified as the Danish-flagged Carla Maersk, believed to be holding 216,000 gallons of MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, a chemical compound used almost exclusively as a fuel additive in motor gasoline. The chemical is toxic and can cause dizziness, nausea and trouble breathing if inhaled. Residents of Morgan Point were ordered to stay inside with the windows closed and air conditioners off. Nearby roads were blocked off and first responders on the scene were wearing breathing gear and gas masks. Five days later, a separate collision occurred between a 892 foot container ship and a 445 foot tanker ship. No pollution or injuries resulted of that second crash.
The Houston Ship Channel is regarded as one of the busiest waterways in the world and it is estimated that more than 200 million tons of cargo move through the channel each year. Three collisions in the first half of a year is not a good record for the Houston Ship Channel, considering these accidents could have resulted in many deaths and injuries of both employees and residents in the area.




Posted Under: Contamination