Barge crash's marine life impacts being monitored as Pelican Island bridge reopens

Daniela Hurtado Image
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
ABC13 presses for marine life impacts after Pelican Island barge crash
As life on Galveston's Pelican Island seemingly returns to normal, Eyewitness News is questioning the marine life impacts due to the thousands of gallons of oil that leaked from the barge crash.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Traffic to and from Pelican Island is back open. The area from the surface is seemingly back to normal after a barge crashed into a bridge last Wednesday.

Officials confirmed approximately 20,000 gallons of vacuum gas oil spilled into the waterway due to the crash. Responding agencies also said they are working to clean it up.

The unified command, consisting of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Texas General Land office, among other agencies, confirmed over the weekend that they know of at least three oiled birds found dead due to this environmental issue.

ABC13 has obtained photos from local fishermen of a dead dolphin found in the water between the Pelican Island Causeway and the Coast Guard building over the weekend.

Unified command center officials said they received a report of a young dead dolphin but added that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) couldn't recover the creature because two other adult dolphins prevented anyone from approaching. Officials said they have been unable to test it, so they do not know if it's connected to the oil discharge.

In addition, officials said two oiled brown pelicans and an oiled laughing gull were found dead in the Swan Lake area. Responders have spotted up to nine oiled birds but have been unable to recover them because they flew off. To deter birds, officials confirm they have placed acoustic cannons in the Swan Lake area.

"Anytime you hear oil in the waterway, it's concerning because it has such great impact not only in the species but on the habitat long term," JoanieSteinhaus, Ocean Program director for the Turtle Restoration Network in Galveston, said about the environmental impacts. "Birds are the highest source for potential getting the oil on them as they groom; they're ingesting it."

Responding agencies said the pollution response has finished near Pelican Island, and now they're south in Swan Lake as crews remove oil and wash shoreside rocks. So far, officials say 22,000 gallons of oily water mixture from the area around Swan Lake have been recovered.

On Monday afternoon, Coast Guard representatives told ABC13 that responders are removing the oily water using vacuum trucks and skimmers. They said all the liquid would be taken for proper disposal. They also told ABC13 that they were not using dispersant and were working swiftly with the unified command to restore the marine environment.

On Monday afternoon, the unified command confirmed they had collected at least one dead fish near the spill.

They ask anyone in the area who sees animals impacted by this situation to call the wildlife hotline at 832-514-9663 to report sightings of oiled or dead wildlife.

As clean-up efforts continue along the waterway, the Department of State Health Services has not issued a fish consumption advisory or ban as a result of the oil spill.

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