Tanker collision sends thousands of gallons of gas product leaking into bay

A collision between a massive tanker and two oil barges has resulted in as much as tens of thousands of gallons of a gasoline product leaking into a shipping channel near Houston.

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed the accident, which took place about 3:30 p.m. local time, in the Houston Ship Channel, near Bayport, Texas. A 755-foot tanker collided with a tug pushing two barges filled with 25,000 gallons of reformate each.

The hull of the tanker punctured two of the barges' four storage tanks, Jim Guidry, executive Vice President of Kirby Corporation, which owns the barges, said at a Saturday morning press conference, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"The bow of the ship went through the port tank into the starboard tank, so there was no way to secure the source of the leak," Guidry said, according to the newspaper "Those two tanks were open to the sea."

Reformate is an intermediate stage in the production of gasoline and is colorless, flammable and toxic to marine life.

Air monitoring tests were completed overnight and results released on Saturday morning found there was no danger to the public found, according to Houston ABC station KTRK. .

Officials said that 26 teams of air monitors have taken over 1300 samples. All samples have not exceeded actionable levels.

Reformate is an intermediate stage in the production of gasoline and is colorless, flammable and toxic to marine life.

It is still unclear how much of the product has leaked into the water, officials said.

Eyewitnesses said they could see an oily sheen on the water and the smell was very strong.

"We know the air is coming this way. The flow is coming this way. We are definitely going to monitor everything," Mayor Jeff Wagner, of Pasadena, Texas told KTRK.

One of the barges capsized, while the other was severely damaged, according to the Coast Guard. Video from on scene showed one barge nearly sliced in half as a result of the collision.

There were no reported injuries.

Air Station Houston sent a helicopter and ship to assess the situation, according to the USCG.

"It's a light chemical and it floats on the water, which allows it to evaporate," Galveston Bay Foundation CEO Bob Stokes told KTRK. "Unlike other chemicals, it doesn't sink to the bottom, but it still poses risks to marine life."

Houston's Department of Health said in a statement that due to wind conditions it did not expect any adverse effects in the city itself.

The Coast Guard said late Friday of the air monitoring that "if any readings above actionable levels are detected, advisories will be provided to local emergency operations centers." There have been no evacuation orders given.

The tanker was identified as the Genesis River, a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carrier.

The shipping channel was closed in the area of the accident.
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