Crowds happily return to Galveston beach one week after ship channel oil spill


by Marcelino Benito/ KHOU 11 News

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 7:40 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 31 at 8:10 AM

HOUSTON—One week after 168,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Houston Ship Channel, people are trying to get back to normal on Galveston Island.

”My first reaction was ‘Oh no, we’re going to Galveston,’” said Keith Mika.

But Mika and his daughter took a chance and went down to the island anyway.

”I expected worse,” Mika said.

A lot of people expected a lot worse, after all, it was 168,000 gallons of oil.

”We thought we were going to see black holes on the beach, and seaweed just covered in oil,” said another beachgoer. “We just didn’t know what to expect.”

Instead of oil on the beach, they saw crowds of people under sunny skies wading into clear water. People came to spend money on the island.

”The Sea Wall was full of bike riders,” he said. “Hardly any parking on the Sea Wall at all.”

But the oil is still around. Less than 100 yards from where people were enjoying Galveston’s beaches, you could still see the remnants of the oil spill. The rocks were coated in a black, thick, tar-like substance.

And on East Beach, things are worse. That area is still closed to the public.

”Just watching and waiting,” said Jessica Salinas.

Salinas works at Murdoch’s Bathhouse along the Sea Wall. She and others are still holding their breath and keeping a close eye on the tides.

”We were kind of iffy about this oil spill,” said Salinas. “It hasn’t affected us yet, but who’s to say what next week will be like.”

The City of Galveston tells us that it believes the oil itself is a short-term problem.

”We battled a big perception issue that our beaches were covered in oil that the significance and impact of this was much bigger than it actually was,” said Liz Rogers, a city spokesperson.

The concern now is turning that tide of public perception, so it doesn’t become a long-term problem.

The city says it’s unclear when East Beach can reopen to the public. Rogers says crews are working as quickly as possible to open one of the city’s most popular beaches up again.