2 Barges Collide Near Entrance To Houston Ship Channel

Multiple agencies are investigating the environmental effects of a fire and possible chemical spill near the entrance of the Houston ship channel.

The accident was the result of a collision between two barges that drifted into each other early Monday morning.

damaged barges after collision
Responders work to stabilize and move damaged barges after a collision and fire in the Intracoastal Waterway early Monday morning, July 20, 2015. A tug and two barges were headed westbound with naphtha and another tug and two barges were headed eastbound with cumene when the collision occurred. A fire broke out on one of the naphtha barges, but was extinguished in a few hours. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Cmdr. Ricardo Alonso)


A fire broke out on one of the barges that took Houston Firefighters and Coast Guard crews four hours to extinguish.

It was carrying about a million gallons of petroleum naphtha, a flammable liquid used as a component of gasoline.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Andy Kendrick says naphtha is very light and evaporates quickly.

“And we have air monitors set up around the area, so we’ve taken more than 100 different samples just to make sure that we don’t have any high readings,” Kendrick says.

The collision happened just off the western tip of Bolivar Peninsula.

Bob Stokes is president of the Galveston Bay Foundation. He says there are sensitive conservation areas close to the accident site, but there’s no evidence of damage to fish or wildlife.

“The good news is that the trends for these types of incidents are generally down over the last couple of years. The bad news is we’ve had several of these that have been very high profile, we’ve had some pretty significant spills in the last year,” Stokes says.

In March, a collision between a tanker and a bulk carrier spilled thousands of barrels of MTBE, a flammable toxic chemical.

A year earlier, another barge accident spilled 168,000 gallons of crude oil into the channel.


Tweet from the scene


Video from the Coast Guard

Response crews work to ready and move damaged barges after a collision between barges carrying naphtha and cumene on the Intracoastal Waterway near Bolivar Peninsula Monday, July 20, 2015. One barge carrying naphtha caught fire in the collision and was put out within four hours. U.S. Coast Guard video by Cmdr. Ricardo Alonso.

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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