The U.S. Coast Guard is ramping up efforts to clean oil in the Ports of Texas City and Galveston Wednesday, as expected afternoon weather will likely hinder or cease operations due to safety concerns for responders.
Storms may keep responders from being able to safely collect oil on the water and along the shoreline. Response efforts will focus heavily on cleaning Pelican Island and north to the Texas City Dike until weather makes operations too hazardous for responders.
The weather is also expected to flush out pockets of oil that were unreachable to responders over the past few days. Once weather abates, responders will be re-assessing the area to update cleanup plans for immediate action.
Weather conditions Tuesday in the Ports of Texas City and Galveston pushed oil 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, and into a southwesterly direction along the coast. The Unified Command has established a second Incident Command Post in Port O’Connor to prepare to protect the environment in the Matagorda area. Responders and equipment began arriving in the vicinity of Matagorda Tuesday, and will continue arriving throughout Wednesday. Protection tactics outlined in the area contingency plan are already being put in place.
At this time, volunteers for the incident will no longer be accepted and added to the mailing list. There is a database that currently includes a large number of volunteers that have been waiting patiently to volunteer, and will be utilized first. Once operational needs exhaust the list, new volunteers will be accepted.
Under Federal Law, only those individuals with special training and certifications are permitted to clean up oil, oiled debris or wildlife. These individuals are working under the Unified Command and have been assigned to those tasks accordingly. Those who do not hold the special training and certifications affiliated to this incident are not permitted to handle or collect oil, oiled debris or wildlife. These laws and regulations are in place to protect your health and safety which is our top priority.
Interested citizens can still help, however. Please report any oiled wildlife sightings to (888) 384-2000. Cell phone photos of oiled wildlife can also be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org These observations help our responders by saving time and providing care to injured or oiled wildlife as soon as possible.
Our wildlife responders currently include experts from U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and are responding with rehabilitation, husbandry and stabilization trailers staged along the Texas City Dike, Bolivar Peninsula and the Phoenix Pollution Control Facility. Responders have found 30 birds that were dead on arrival to the stabilization trailers, and they are currently rehabilitating 12 birds.
Air monitoring continues throughout the general area, although readings have consistently shown no reason for health concerns.
The Galveston Bolivar Ferry is scheduled to resume 24-hour operations. Travelers should be aware that oily conditions exist and they are encouraged to exercise caution and to pay attention to Texas Department of Transportation personnel’s instructions while boarding, riding and disembarking the ferry.
As a clarification for mariners, recreational boating and fishing is still open. Restrictions to mariners only pertain to the current safety zone. To clarify earlier statements released by the Galveston County Health District and the Texas Department of State, the Unified Command has amplifying details for the safety zones and expectations for recreational vessels and commercial fishermen in and around the Houston/Galveston areas.
Recreational boating and fishing is still open, however general mariners are not allowed to operate in the safety zone without permission due to portions of Galveston Bay and offshore areas experiencing floating oil. They are advised to avoid sheen or floating oil outside the safety zone if encountered and to report it.
General mariners outside the safety zones have no restrictions on their movement or activities, but please avoid sheen and floating oil and report it if encountered.
Oiled commercial fishing vessels currently anchored or moored within the safety zone must be cleared by the incident command post prior to movement. Unfouled commercial fishing vessels may transit the safety zone, however no fishing activities are permitted within the safety zone.
Deep draft vessels will continue to coordinate movement through the Vessel Traffic Service.
Safety zones include
-The Entire Texas City Channel
-From Galveston Bay Entrance (Buoy 1C) to Houston Ship Channel Buoy 44
-From Galveston Channel Entrance to Pelican Island Bridge
-From Intracoastal Waterway Buoy 13 to Intracoastal Waterway Buoy 20 (Galveston/Freeport Cutoff)
A vessel decontamination plan has been formulated to assist vessels that may have been impacted by oil. The sites of the stations are Pelican Cut, Galveston and Bolivar. To schedule a vessel decontamination call (832)-244-1870.
Details from the response efforts are as follows:
-Total nonconsecutive shoreline impacted – 18.9 miles
-Recovered gallons of oily-water – 175,098 gallons
-Recovered bags of solid waste – 1,799 bags
-Total containment boom deployed – 69,268 feet
-Total containment boom staged – 253,300 feet
-Additional containment boom ordered – 5,400 feet
-Response vessels assigned – 70 vessels
-Total personnel in the field – 940
-Total personnel in the Incident Command Post - 324
The Coast Guard investigation into the incident is ongoing.