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Salvage Crews Stop Leak, Sop up Mess of Latest Oil Spill

August 13, 1990

HOUSTON (AP) _ Salvage crews sucked up oil from the Houston Ship Channel on Monday after the third large oil spill in as many months in or near the busy shipping channel.

The Coast Guard said at least 21,000 gallons of oil spilled Sunday when a barge buckled at a dock owned by Lyondell Petrochemical, a former Arco Petrochemical subsidiary that was spun off as an independent company. The barge was being loaded with fuel oil.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Rex Prosser said crews contained the spill within a few hours and by Monday morning had transferred the barge’s remaining 609,000 gallons of oil to another barge.

The salvage crews ran into difficulties Monday.

″The major problem is that the oil is sitting on the bottom of the water,″ said Prosser, chief of Houston port operations. ″We’re trying to bring in some underwater dredges to remove the oil from the bottom of the turning basin.″

Lyondell spokesman David Harpole said salvage crews used high-pressure water sprays to help with the cleanup.

″Water is being sprayed into the channel to generate some turbulence to push the oil into the shore where the vacuum trucks and skimmers can get to it,″ Harpole said.

Coast Guard officials said the spill area was surrounded by refineries and other industrial plants, so concern about the environment is minimal.

The 295-foot barge owned by Ingram Barge Co. of Nashville buckled at midship, creasing the center of the vessel and spilling oil from both sides.

Crews put temporary patches over a 2-foot fracture on the barge’s starboard side and a 3-inch split on its port side.

Prosser blamed human error for the spill.

″They were loading the barge and the tankermen put too much weight - it was a very heavy cargo - in the two center tanks, and it caused the barge to buckle,″ Prosser said.

On Friday, the Coast Guard completed a nearly two-week cleanup of a 700,000-gallon oil spill that happened July 28 when a Greek tanker collided with two barges under tow in the ship channel.

On June 8, the Norwegian tanker Mega Borg spilled 3.9 million gallons of Angolan crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico off Galveston when an explosion ripped the vessel, killing four members of the crew and injuring 17 others.

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