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Collision in Texas waterway causes significant petroleum product spill

13 May 2019

On May 10, a tanker collided with two barges in the Houston Ship Channel releasing an unknown amount of gasoline reformate into the water. Local authorities said one barge capsized and the other was damaged. Both were carrying about 25,000 barrels of the flammable and toxic product.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

Reformate is a refined product that is blended with gasoline to boost octane levels. It is an extremely flammable liquid and vapour and can be fatal if swallowed. It is also toxic to marine life.

Officials initially said about 25,000 barrels of product entered the water, but later said they were unsure how much was released. Helicopter news footage showed that the upright barge had almost been cut in two. Genesis River, the 755-foot tanker involved in the collision, was bound for Bayport Container Dock, according to officials. The barges were being pushed by the tug Voyager.

Galveston County officials said the Port of Houston and Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health was monitoring air quality in and around the accident.

A unified command consisting of the US Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office and the barge owner, Kirby Inland Marine, has been set up to respond to the spill.

Following the incident, part of the Houston Ship Channel was closed and salvage teams were on scene assessing the damage and deploying booms around the product in the waterway.

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