Ship collides with barges, causing massive gas product spill in Houston Ship Channel

By Cory McCord - Digital News Editor

A barge was struck by a ship in the Houston Ship Channel on May 10, 2019, causing a massive reformate spill.

HOUSTON - An outbound tanker collided with two barges in the Houston Ship Channel, releasing an unknown amount of gasoline product into the water, according to authorities.

The crash happened around 3:15 p.m. Friday, just east of Barbours Cut. One barge capsized. The other was damaged and leaked the product into the water. Both were carrying about 25,000 barrels of reformate.

The Houston Ship Channel was closed from Light 61 to Light 75.

Officials initially said about 25,000 barrels of reformate entered the water, but later said they were not sure how much was released.

Reformate is a refined product that is blended with gasoline to boost octane to achieve levels needed for commercial sales. It is an extremely flammable liquid and vapor and can be fatal if it is swallowed. Reformate is toxic to marine life.

The name of the 755-foot tanker that struck the barges was Genesis River and it was headed to Bayport Container Dock No. 5, officials said.

Friendswood dispatch reported receiving several calls related to a smell of gasoline within the city. Officials said the smell is directly related to the crash in the Ship Channel. 

Galveston County officials said the Port of Houston and Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health are currently monitoring the air quality in and around the accident. County officials said the monitoring reports are not showing any detectable levels of concern in air quality in Kemah and Clear Lake Shores.

Friendswood officials said tests were completed for Friendswood and League City, and said the results were "good with no detections of actionable levels of chemicals found." The city said there is no danger to the public.

Officials said people should turn off air conditioners to limit the smell within homes.

Via Sky 2 video, one of the barges could be seen with a significant amount of damage.

No injuries have been reported.

VIDEO: Fuel spill in Houston Ship Channel May 10, 2019

VIDEO: Ship crashes into barge Galveston Bay May 10, 2019

The Galveston County Health District released the following statement on Saturday: 

The Galveston County Health District continues to work with our partners to monitor potential impact of Friday’s Galveston Bay barge accident.

“Some residents are reporting a strong smell of gasoline and there is clearly an odor in the air in some areas of the county. However, air monitoring reports for Galveston County show no toxic levels at this time,” said Galveston County Local Health Authority Dr. Philip Keiser. 

Our concern remains for the health and safety of the community. Some residents are reporting a strong smell of gasoline. A gasoline smell does not necessarily mean there is a health hazard or harmful particles in the air.

If you are experiencing the smell of gasoline and are concerned, it is recommended that you use your best judgement, stay inside and contact your healthcare provider. 

Symptoms may include coughing, difficulty breathing, headaches, nausea, dizziness and burning, irritation and redness to the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Some members of the community may be more susceptible than others. The elderly, children, pregnant and those with respiratory issues or weakened immune systems may be especially affected. 

We recommend you contact your healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms. Pets may also be impacted and experience similar symptoms. If care is needed, please contact your veterinarian. 

GCHD has established a hotline for health-related questions. If you’d like to speak to a representative, please call 409-938-7221.

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