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Bad Oil Spill Could Have Been Worse

The cleanup from Saturday's oil spill in Port Arthur continues. Response to the accident was almost immediate and officials say that prevented the state’s biggest oil spill in more than a decade from being worse than it was. Pat Hernandez has the story.


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The collision occurred on Saturday between the  800-foot tanker Eagle Otome and a barge carrying chemicals off Port Arthur. Coast Guard Petty Officer Casey Ranel says the tanker was loaded with Mexican crude and headed for a refinery in Beaumont.

“There are 27 skimming vessels working and there’s about 500-responders out in the field and at the command post so, we’re just trying to get the port opened as quickly as possible.”

PH: “What makes this particular event challenging for everybody involved?”

Ranel: “Well, it involves a lot of things, you know the wildlife, and then of course, the citizens that live in the area. It’s just something that has to be cleaned up quickly, that way the mariners can get in and out of port, and get everything back up and running.”

Officials hope that happens soon because keeping the channel closed for any amount of time would impact the economy significantly. Meanwhile, skimming vessels continue to  comb the waterway and recover more of the
spilled crude. Jim Suydam with Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson’s office says it is believed that 174-thousand gallons of oil has evaporated or dissipated.

“We’re fortunate that this spill has been contained at this point to the ship channel itself. It’s minimized the environmental impact, and we’re also fortunate that Texas has the most robust oil spill response capacity in the nation. This same spill could have happened in Florida or California and been a disaster frankly, because they don’t have the oil spill response capacity that Texas has. They’d placed out more than 7-miles worth of oil containment boom within 24-hours.”

The Unified Command continues its clean-up efforts Monday. The efforts began Saturday after a collision between the tank ship Eagle Otome, an 807-foot Singapore flagged tank ship, and the towing vessel Dixie Vengeance and the two barges that it was pushing. The collision resulted in an estimated at 462,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Sabine Neches Waterway.

Cleanup workers took extra precautions to prevent the oil from seeping into critical areas essential to fisheries. Rhonda Morgatroyd is with Wildlife Response Services. She credits the quick response to minimizing the damage to the wildlife habitat.

“Yes, that’s wonderful, that’s what we hoped for. We have everything in order at the moment, and are prepared for additional impact if that happens.”

PH: “What does that mean?”

Morgatroyd: “We have facilities set up already in preparation of any incoming wildlife.”

PH: “Is this time of the season critical for the habitat?”

Morgatroyd: “Well, this time of year, we have a lot of wintering waterfowl in the area so, there’s always a risk but, what happens in an instance like this is you want to be prepared, you don’t want to have to be back behind the eight ball in trying to catch up. So, mostly we’re just sitting and waiting, is case something does come about.”

The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board are conducting a joint investigation into the cause of the accident.

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