Oil Spill Estimate Is a Relief

Barge hit Pelican Island Bridge in Texas, cutting island off from Galveston
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2024 2:00 PM CDT
Updated May 16, 2024 6:15 PM CDT
Barge Slams Into Texas Bridge
Oil spills into the surrounding waters after a barge hit a bridge in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.   (KTRK via AP)
UPDATE May 16, 2024 6:15 PM CDT

The Coast Guard on Thursday gave a preliminary estimate that up to 2,000 gallons of oil spilled into Galveston Bay when a barge crashed into a Texas bridge the day before. "We're pretty confident there was much less oil introduced to the water than we initially estimated," Capt. Keith Donohue said, per the AP. A state official said during a news conference that cleanup efforts so far have not found any harm to wildlife. The bridge was still closed to incoming traffic, but vehicles were able to leave Pelican Island for Galveston, and pedestrians headed in both directions could cross.

May 15, 2024 2:00 PM CDT

A barge slammed into a bridge in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday morning, causing an oil spill and cutting Pelican Island off from the rest of the city. County Judge Mark Henry, Galveston County's top emergency management official, said a barge hit the railroad side of the bridge around 10am, prompting the bridge's closure, KTRK reports. Henry said two crew members ended up in the water but were quickly rescued. Aerial views show that part of the railroad trestle has collapsed, reports KHOU-11. Oil is leaking from the barge. In an alert, the city said the Coast Guard "will determine the extent of the spill, as well as initiate the containment and cleanup processes."

Galveston County Navigation District bridge superintended David Flores says a tugboat backing out of a fuel storage facility next to the bridge lost control of two bunker barges—fuel barges for ships—it was pushing, and one of them hit the bridge, the AP reports. "The current was very bad, and the tide was high. He lost it," Flores says. In a major blow to shipping operations, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway has been closed, reports KTRK. Officials say the Pelican Island Bridge—the only way for vehicles to get on or off the Island—will remain closed until it has been inspected and deemed safe to use.

story continues below

CBS News reports that around 9,000 people live on the island, which is home to Texas A&M University at Galveston. "Sea Aggie Alert: The Pelican Island Bridge is closed to all traffic at this time due to a barge strike," the university said in a post on X. Electricity has been restored and additional updates will be provided as the situation unfolds. (More Galveston stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.