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Coast Guard, TCEQ respond to chemical spill at Houston Ship Channel

Two barges were on the inbound channel and a tanker was outbound when they collided.

HOUSTON — The Coast Guard and state environmental agency are responding to a collision at the Houston Ship Channel, which spilled products used to make gasoline.

Two barges collided with a tanker south of Morgan's Point in the ship channel Friday around 3:30 p.m.

Coast Guard's Houston-Galveston sector received a report that the 755-foot tanker Genesis River and the tug Voyager collided.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is also responding. 

Contractors with TCEQ are monitoring the air along with the Coast Guard and local first responders.

The tug was moving two barges loaded with the gasoline blend stock reformate.

That's the product spilling into the ship channel, though officials say the smell of gasoline does not necessarily mean there is a health hazard. 

They say air monitoring shows no concern for public health as of Friday evening. Some viewers are reporting a foul odor coming from the ship channel after the incident.

A helicopter aircrew and a boat crew are assessing the situation, the Coast Guard said in a written statement.

There is also a port fire boat responding. 

One barge capsized and one has a hole in it. 

An estimated 25,000 barrels of gasoline blend stock had been loaded on each barge, according to the Coast Guard.

It was not clear how much of that product spilled from the damaged barge. It was also unclear what caused the collision. 

"Air monitoring is being conducted along the shoreline from Sylvan Beach to Kemah," the Coast Guard statement said. "The first priority of the unified command is public safety. If any readings above actionable levels are detected, advisories will be provided to local emergency operations centers."

Galveston County officials said if you smell gasoline and are concerned, you should stay inside and avoid the coastlines along Kemah, Clear Lake Shores, Bacliff, San Leon and League City, especially if you have preexisting health conditions.

The city of Friendswood said the gasoline smell there is directly related to the ship channel incident.

The city of Seabrook acknowledged reports of a strong smell coming from the collision, but said it is "not getting any reports that the air quality is impacted. Residents do not need to take any action at this time."


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