Chemical Spill in Chocolate Bayou

The Coast Guard and several state agencies are keeping a collective close eye on a barge that ran aground in Chocolate Bayou several nights ago with nearly half a million gallons of a toxic chemical aboard.

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The tank barge with 425,000 gallons of sulfuric acid started taking on water and ran aground Monday night in Chocolate Bayou several miles upstream from Galveston Bay in Brazoria County. The first thing the Coast Guard did was to push the barge out of the way of other shipping traffic -- and start testing the water for pollution. Warrant Officer and spokesman Andrew Kendrick says they were concerned because there's a distinct chemical sheen in the water around the barge, but they can't tell how much leaked out.

Kendrick says the good news today is that after more than 24 hours of monitoring and testing, they can say the barge isn't leaking any more of the acid. The owners -- Martin Product Sales -- is pumping the sulfuric acid into another tank barge, and as of today more than half the 425,000 gallons has been removed. He says it's probable that the barge will refloat when enough of the load has been removed. In any event, the Coast Guard is one of several agencies working together in this effort.

As for environmental damage, Kendrick says it appears to be minimal, because sulfuric acid dilutes rapidly in water.

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