EPA urges people to not eat fish from Houston Ship Channel as water sampling continues

By Taisha Walker - Reporter

The Environmental Protection Agency is warning people to not consume fish or crab from the water as the Houston Ship Channel remains partially closed.

A local nonprofit that started to test the water in the Houston Ship Channel on its own out of concern the public wasn’t being told what was in the water fast enough.

SKY 2 was overhead as the U.S. Coast Guard continues to clean up oily water that has been flowing from the ITC Deer Park facility for days.

“We have noticed pockets of product in the San Jacinto port as well as Carpenters Bayou, Tuckers Bayou and Old River. So again those pockets are being addressed through that 60,000 feet of boom,” said Lt. Commander Caren Damon, U.S. Coast Guard

The Galveston Bay Foundation has also been in the water collecting independent samples it will compare with the EPA and TCEQ.

Galveston Bay Foundation President Bob Stokes says his crew has collected 14 samples up and downstream from ITC over three days. 

“So we are out here today just outside of the Houston Ship Channel collecting water samples,” Stokes said. 

On Saturday and Monday, they collected samples from the shore.

“We found a spike in benzene in one of the samples we took on Saturday. Fairly low levels on Friday and again on Monday,” Stokes said.

He said he’s concerned about the impact to wildlife.

“Fish and birds can get oil. We haven’t been privy to any data on the fish and birds. We haven’t heard of any fish kills. We haven’t heard of oiled birds,” Stokes said.

The EPA is urging people not to eat fish or crab from the water.

Stokes said they’ll continue to collect samples as he shifts his focus on the effects the firefighting foam might have on marine life. 

“They have a category of chemicals in them called PFOs. It’s a long chemical name but it goes by PFOA or FFOS. Those kinds of chemicals can persist in the environment for a lot longer,” he said.

There’s not a lot of research surrounding PFOs but the data out there suggest it can stay in the body for several years.

Again, anglers are urged not to eat from this water.