As much as 450,000 gallons of crude oil may have spilled in a southeast Texas port when a tanker and a barge collided Saturday morning, but it’s unclear whether that much actually leaked from the damaged tank, a U.S. Coast Guard official said.
No one was injured in the collision, but the Port of Port Arthur was closed and some nearby residents evacuated for about seven hours.
According to Petty Officer Richard Brahm, the ship’s crew members said they pumped 69,000 barrels from the damaged tank that carried 80,000 barrels, so they have 11,000 barrels - about 450,000 gallons - that has not been accounted for.
Several local officials estimated 1,000 barrels, or about 42,000 gallons, of oil had spilled into the water.
Brahm said it didn’t look like hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude had spilled and thought some might still be in the damaged tank.
"We can’t get in there and look at it," he said.
Port Arthur police Sgt. Ken Carona told television station KFDM that fewer than 100 people were evacuated from the area. He said hydrogen sulfide - a hazardous gas with a rotten egg smell - was emanating from the oil. He told the station that the levels weren’t hazardous, but were a nuisance.
The evacuation order was lifted about 6 p.m., said Mike Free, a battalion chief with the Port Arthur fire department. He said he didn’t know when the ships would be separated, but they would re-evaluate whether to order another evacuation at that time.
Greg Fountain, the Jefferson County emergency management coordinator, said there could be a risk of an explosion during separation.
"You never know where a fire source might come from," said Fountain.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Renee Aiello said the crude spilled when an 800-foot tanker carrying oil collided with a barge being pushed by a harbor vessel. The Coast Guard was notified of the collision around 9:50 a.m., she said.