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Houston Ship Channel Remains Closed; Spill Clean-up To Take Days

A eight-mile stretch of the Houston Ship Channel remains closed one day after a ship collision caused a chemical spill.

Coast Guard officials say the clean-up will take several more days.


This story was updated at 5:30 p.m.


All photos are courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard. Photograph by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin R. Williams) Click here to enlarge


Dozens of ships are lined up waiting to get in and out of the Houston Ship Channel, as crews work to clean up the hazardous spill.

Monday’s collision between two 600-foot ships caused a breach in a tank of a fuel additive called MTBE.

The flammable chemical spreads quickly in water and releases fumes that can cause dizziness and suffocation.

Coast Guard officials say air quality monitors have detected fumes from the spill, but they are below toxic levels.

A shelter in place has been lifted, but some roads near the spill site remain closed. Nearby residents in La Porte have been monitoring the situation.

“I was over at the Neighborhood Center, and we sheltered in place over there,” said resident Ronald Williams. “And they just said they were going to keep us informed about the concentration, how much they spilled out there, and can they contain it in the water.”

One woman says she went to check on her grandmother, who had not learned about the accident. She was concerned because her grandmother uses an oxygen machine to help her breathe. She found out she was okay.

Clifford Walker’s work keeps him outside most of the time. He says he’s not worried.

“Most of the residents around here hadn’t said too much about anything,” said Walker. “If it was really bad, I wouldn’t be out here.”

The official cause of the collision is under investigation, but heavy fog in the area is a likely factor. Officials say before the channel is opened again for commerce, their main priority is the safety of residents.