Oil Spill Near Port Arthur, Texas Closes Vital Waterway

An <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/oil_spills">oil spill in Texas’ Sabine-Neches Waterway is being called the biggest in the state since 1991. The oil spill occurred when a barge collided with the 807-foot double hulled tanker Eagle Otome, sending as much as 11,000 barrels of oil into the waterway.

The spill caused an acrid odor to settle over the town of Port Arthur, Texas, about 90 miles from Houston. The accident, which occurred on Saturday, resulted in a voluntary evacuation recommendation being issued to the 57,000 residents of the town. According to a Reuters report, about a dozen people did evacuate, but were back in their homes on Sunday.

The Eagle Otome was on its way to Exxon Mobile Corps.’ Beaumont refinery on Saturday when the collision occurred. According to Reuters, the barge was one of two being moved by the Dixie Vengeance tug boat. The cause of the collision is unknown, and is being investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

State and environmental agencies are coordinating the clean up of the spill. According to Reuters, the spill is contained by several booms intended to prevent it from spreading, and the Sabine-Neches Waterway is expected to remain closed for at least five days. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that approximately 500 people and 15 skimmers were on hand for the cleanup. As of Sunday, about 1,100 barrels of oil had been recovered.

The Sabine-Neches Waterway is used by four U.S. refineries in east Texas to transport their supply of oil. According to Reuters, the four facilities have a combined refining capacity of 1.15 million barrels, equal to about 6.5 percent of total U.S. capacity.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the oil spill threatens nearby marshes and wetlands that are home to juvenile shrimp and fin fish. The Coast Guard is still trying to determine whether the oil seeped into the wetlands.

According to the Chronicle, an extended closure of the Sabine-Neches channel would be disastrous to the local economy and could have an impact on gasoline prices nationwide.

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