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Texas Oil Spill

March 25th, 2014

A clean up worker in the Texas oil spill, March 24, 2014. Photo courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann

A ship and a barge collided this weekend off the coast of Texas causing some very big problems.

A barge is a type of a boat that transports goods. In this case, it was transporting oil when the crash happened.

1 gallon

168,000 gallons of oil leaked into Galveston Bay, according to reports. It’s now polluting both water and wildlife, and causing a shipping traffic jam as well. As many as 80 boats are waiting to get in or out of the shipping channel where the accident occurred.

Texas oil spill March 22, 2014. Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard

THE ENVIRONMENT

A U.S. Coast Guard captain described the spill as “extremely serious.”

Dying birds are now beginning to show up covered in oil. Fish are expected to wash ashore next.

There’s never a good time for an oil spill, but this one comes at an especially bad time. It’s mating season and many birds are migrating to this area right now for that purpose.

This kind of oil is being described as “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry stuff” — it’s tough on animals who come up from the water through it, then get heavily coated in oil.

Clean-up efforts have begun and could take months, even years. Conservation biologist,  Richard Steiner , and other environmentalists  say oil spills can’t be effectively “cleaned up” and that most of it is impossible to contain.

Unfortunately, this comes on the 25th anniversary of another major oil spill — the Exxon Valdez near Alaska. That was considered the worst oil spill in U.S. history until the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida in 2010. Over 200 million gallons of oil were released into the water from Deepwater. And oil is still being found on beaches from the Exxon Valdez spill.

THE ECONOMY

Texas is the  top oil producing state  in the U.S. so there’s a lot of oil-related shipping traffic in this area. For now, the shipping channel is closed while a preliminary clean-up is underway. Ships not being able to come and go means that business isn’t being done. That affects the economy and also means our gas prices might have to go up .

The hope is that at least some of it could re-open, possibly as early as today.

Map/image courtesy of HARC.

This map, by the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), shows the shipping channel and where the spill happened.

Coast Guard updates can be found here . Port of Houston Authority updates can be found here .

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