Energy & Environment

Houston Ship Channel Oil Slick Shows Up In Corpus Christi

Tar balls from the oil spill in Galveston Bay have reached Mustang Island and the beaches of Port Aransas along the southern Texas Coast.


Task force members remove oil-contaminated sand from the beach on Matagorda Island, Texas, March 30, 2014. Cleanup operations are being directed by a unified command comprised of personnel from the Texas General Land Office, U.S. Coast Guard and Kirby Inland marine. [Photo and caption: U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class George Degener]

The oil has washed up on beaches along Matagorda Island and the greater Corpus Christi area, and has become a primary focus for the Coast Guard and others involved with clean up.

Greg Beuerman with Unified Command says responders are now concentrating their cleanup efforts on beaches at Mustang and North Padre Island, where tar balls from dime size to about 6-inches have landed.

“Most of the work that’s being done now in that particular geographic area is being done along the shore. Crews, approximately 300 people are on the shores of Matagorda and Mustang, remediating the island literally by hand with buckets and shovels. It’s a very sensitive environment. Texas Parks and Wildlife people are out there, to vigilantly watch for any kind of an impact on wildlife as well.”

Doug Helton is with the office of Response and Restoration with NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They respond to a couple hundred spills a year and try forecast their movement to land.

He says while they were pretty accurate in predicting where this spill wound up, there aren’t any good outcomes when the oil comes ashore.

“You can do things to lessen the harm. And in the situation here, one of the things to keep in mind is that the barge had over a million gallons of oil on it, and the salvers and the responders kept that spill from being much worse. But it’s a difficult challenge to pick up all that oil and not have an environmental impact.”  

While the total amount of oil leaked from the accident is significant, it was less than a couple of hours worth in comparison to the Macondo Oil Spill of 2010.

Professor Don Van Nieuwenhuise at the UH’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, says the oil travels great distances while it evaporates and is absorbed by sea and land.

“The oil itself has traveled over 200 miles, and that’s impacted or affected or caused by the offshore currents that we have, or the coastal currents and wind is probably blowing it a bit. So it’s not really that rapid. But as it moves over a larger distance, it does become dispersed and the total impact becomes less, it’s just more wide spread.”


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