In response to the story ("Spill closes oyster beds, sparks seafood advisory," The Daily News, May 14): In reference to this latest chemical spill, several things need to be pointed out. This product, Reformate, is an aromatic water soluble carcinogen chemical.

With over 300,000 gallons spilling into the Houston Ship Channel, the waves and tidal flow have spread this into the mud banks and sensitive wet lands. This effectively stops marine growth and poisons all levels of marine life.

It will take years for this to sort itself out by Mother Nature. Meanwhile, jobs will be affected, recreation, and life in general will be altered. It has the possibility of being the worst environmental and health hazard in our lifetime. This is due to the components of Reformate.

The real crime is that no responding agency has stated that this is a disaster. My background as a marine inspector and retired licensed safety engineer qualifies my words. Also, not one person in the command staff mentioned why the airborne particles were hazardous to human health.

Telling the truth is all is that is left.

Gaylon Ray

Texas City

Locations

(14) comments

Paula Flinn

This is devastating news.

Ron Paget

Yes it is because this is a double hit to the ship channel. Remember the recent
Intercontinental Terminals Co. petrochemical fire and spill (Deer Park) earlier this year.

Robert Braeking

The spill was largely aromatics and dissipated within days. The closing of oyster beds and seafood advisory was merely the TPW being their usual selves-antagonistic toward commercial fishing. The TPW can't hope to manage a fishery. If they could the redfish fishery would have recovered in the 30+ years that they have been 'managing' it.

Gary Scoggin

“It has the possibility of being the worst environmental and health hazard in our lifetime. ” That’s a pretty bold statement; one that shouldn’t be allowed to stand without true evidence. Benzene, the aromatic compound of main concern, is chronically toxic, not acutely toxic, and its half life in the wild is measured in days, if not hours. The long term difference between a raffinate spill and a crude oil spill is that crude oil will contain polynuclear aromatics, which degrade much, much slower. By virtue of the catalytic reforming process, through which gasoline blending raffinates are made, there would be few, if any, polycyclic compounds.

(I’m a licensed environmental engineer, by the way.)

Benzene is bad stuff to be sure and I’m not downplaying the effects of the spill except to say the impacts were acute much more so than chronic.

John E Sr. Macrini

What bothers me about this incident is the apparent lack of foresight and control of the LNG Tanker which hit the barges and tug. The ship channel is always packed with barge traffic due to the number of industrial and petrochemical sites which populate and utilize the Texas City, Galveston - Houston area of ports. There is always a healthy amount of discussion about qualified pilots and rules regarding the operation of such large and potentially dangerous vessels in the ship channel. Additionally, all of these vessels have radar, radio, as well as access to current weather, visibility, and tidal conditions. Since multiple barges connected to push boats or tugs are subjected to a multiplicity of factors which can adversely affect their means and rate of navigation or egress, I would hope that the person in charge of a tanker with the potential cargo of LNG would be more vigilant than the one in this case that rammed the reformate barges. This incident should foreshadow what appears to be a badly needed commitment to Ship Channel Safety.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Are you familiar with the Rules of the Road? Failure to adhere to them by a Kirby tug / barge was the cause of a collision with passing ship in the Houston Ship Channel in 2014. May be just a little premature to assign blame to the tanker (by the way, the Genesis River is not an LNG tanker) before the NTSB / USCG hearings are held. They were quite enlightening the last time around.

Robert Braeking

Although the official investigation is not out, I understand that the ship nudged the bank which threw him into the path of the tow. The tug reacted by attempting to move his tow to the opposite bank which would have changed the passing from one whistle to two whistle without communicating his intention to the ship. The ship recovered but was not aware of the intention of the tug so maintained a one whistle course. I really don't think that the pilot of the ship has any culpability for the collision. The tug should have banked his tow to the right instead of crossing. At least then a collision would have been a glancing blow and would not have been as likely to cause a rupture. Things happen fast at the new speed limit.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Robert, I was at the hearings in 2014 and your description here is almost exactly what the Kirby push boat captain did then: tried to get out of a jam by trying to beat the oncoming vessel by crossing its bow; resulting in the collision with the inbound ship at the Texas City / ICW crossing of the Ship Channel. It would explain how these barges appear to have been contacted broad on the beam, as well. If this is what happened AGAIN, then perhaps the owners need to figure out why the 3rd Mates that they hire for Captains of their push boats have difficulty learning the Rules of the Road. But I still prefer to hear their testimony under oath because there is always a gap between what gets said immediately after a casualty and what gets said to a USCG / NTSB investigation panel when one's license is hanging in the balance. You are also right that, had the contact been a glancing blow, the double hulls on the barges MIGHT have prevented the opening of cargo tanks, which was an inevitable result of a broad on the beam contact.

Gaylon Ray

The half life of benzene in the atmosphere is a debatable topic because most monitoring us stopped after the initial spill. Not one air quality device reported any level of benzene and historically it is in full range reformate. My concern is the reality of what can happen in the mud banks where this product can contaminate the food chain. There has been a heinous breakdown in the response to this disaster. Gaylon Ray

Gary Scoggin

I'm not aware of the Benzene monitoring in the atmosphere but there is a ton of information on how to model it and predict levels from a source. It's one of the most commonly modeled and monitored compounds in existence and atmospheric benzene is generally short lived once the source is controlled. As far as the mud banks are concerned, benzene degrades quicky in biological systems and, at the mud surface, there is a lot of biological activity. Benzene, unlike metals and more complex organic compounds, tends not to bioaccumulate.

Again, I'm not saying that the spill wasn't bad or that there weren't worries but I'm much less worried about the longer term effects than I was about the acute affects. As far as the overall response is concerned I wasn't involved so I can't judge but if based on your direct observations you believe the response was inadequate I accept your judgement.

Gaylon Ray

My belief is from witnessing the way the Texas City docks in the 70’s was. As Barges were loaded by watching stand pipes and compartments overflow, these same chemicals were saturated in the areas of mud, grass and shorelines. It was so bad the dolphins and pelicans left for a long time. Because it seems this spill was not seen as a hazard by the towing company,coast guard or the GLO, it rankled me as o have responded to smaller chemical spills in the marshes and have seen the devastation it caused. My confidence in the responsible companies is low. I do appreciate your observation as more eyes more accountably. Gaylon Ray

Gaylon Ray

Just in the CCA just announced that the tagged redfish release would not happen in Galveston Bay due to a press release from DSHS about contamination from the recent spill from portions of Galveston and Trinity Bay. From the Texas City dike to Smiths point. Not the best iof days but again the truth matters. Carry on Gaylon Ray

Michelle Aycoth

Lifetime ?
It’s already gone, stuff was lighter than gasoline and has already evaporated.
Andrew Aycoth

Robert Braeking

The CCA is in cahoots with the TPW. Neither know what it takes to manage a fishery.

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