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Source of oil leak in Galveston Bay following barge collision has been contained, officials say

Authorities are monitoring an oil spill in Texas waterways after the partial collapse of a bridge hit by a barge, but the source of the oil spill itself has been contained, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The 321-foot barge, named MMLP 321, struck a pier on the rail portion of the Pelican Island Causeway Wednesday morning, causing oil to leak aboard the vessel into Galveston Bay, officials said. The span is the only bridge that leads from the island city of Galveston on the Texas Gulf Coast to neighboring Pelican Island.

Texas Department of Transportation engineers will inspect the road and determine if it is also damaged, officials said. No injuries were reported.

The barge was carrying 30,000 barrels of vacuum-packed diesel, the US Coast Guard said in a statement on Wednesday. It is unclear how much oil leaked into the bay.

The U.S. Coast Guard is leading the response to assess the oil spill and will determine its extent and the cleanup process. The source of the barge leak has been contained, the Coast Guard said in a statement Thursday.

PHOTO: A barge that crashed into a bridge, forcing a road closure, is seen in Galveston, Texas, May 15, 2024 in this distributed photo.

A barge that crashed into a bridge, forcing a road closure, is seen in Galveston, Texas, May 15, 2024 in this distributed photo.

Galveston County via Facebook/Reuters

The sheen of oil on the water could be seen in aerial images of the bay.

A coast guard plane and drones were deployed Thursday morning to assess the extent of the oil spill, the coast guard said. The Coast Guard also closed 6.5 miles along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, a busy shipping channel in the region.

“The harmful consequences of oil are once again impacting our coastal communities, our wildlife and our waters,” Joseph Gordon, campaign director of Oceana, an ocean conservation nonprofit, said in a statement. press release regarding the oil spill. “…Whether it’s rig spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster, or spills from transportation accidents, oil and gas drilling is playing a destructive role in fueling the climate crisis.”

PHOTO: A U.S. Coast Guard boat patrols the waters near the site where a barge struck the Pelican Island Bridge, May 15, 2024, in Galveston, Texas.

A U.S. Coast Guard boat patrols the waters near the site where a barge struck the Pelican Island Bridge, May 15, 2024, in Galveston, Texas.

David J. Phillip/AP

The oil spill will likely have minimal long-term consequences, given the volume of oil aboard the barge, Danny Reible, a professor of environmental engineering at Texas Tech University, told ABC News.

“That volume would be widely dispersed pretty quickly,” Reible said, adding that cleanup crews would likely deploy efforts such as booms and collectors to mitigate the spread of the leak.

The Texas General Land Office, the state’s on-scene coordinator for the crash, is working with other federal, state and local officials to ensure the safety of the public and responders, said General Land Office Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, to ABC News in an emailed statement.

“In addition to safety, our top priorities include controlling the source of the pollution, containing and removing the spilled product from the water, restoring commerce, and protecting Texas’ natural resources,” the statement said.

PHOTO: A spill boom is set up to contain a leak from a barge that crashed on the Pelican Island Bridge, May 15, 2024, in Galvestobn, Texas.

A spill boom is set up to contain a leak from a barge that crashed on the Pelican Island Bridge, May 15, 2024, in Galvestobn, Texas.

David J. Phillip/AP

Pelican Island is home to a large shipyard, as well as industrial facilities and Texas AUniversity &M Galveston campus. As commencement ceremonies took place last week and classes were taught for the spring semester, more than 200 people remained on the island and had to be evacuated, ABC Houston station KTRK reported.

First responders facilitated evacuations by allowing drivers to cross the bridge one at a time, approximately 20 feet apart. Evacuations were temporarily halted while authorities inspected the stability of the bridge. Hours later, the bridge was reopened to drivers leaving Pelican Island, but no one was allowed to enter, according to KTRK.

Texas&M students, faculty and non-essential staff were transferred from the island Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.

PHOTO: A section of railroad track hangs from the Pelican Island Bridge after a barge crashed into the bridge, May 15, 2024, in Galveston, Texas.

A section of railroad track hangs from the Pelican Island Bridge after a barge crashed into the bridge, May 15, 2024, in Galveston, Texas.

David J. Phillip/AP

The bridge remains open to cars leaving Pelican Island and pedestrians in both directions, officials said.

On March 26, six people were killed after a cargo ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge spanning Baltimore Harbor, causing the bridge to collapse.

ABC News’ Jennifer Watts contributed to this report.

ABC News

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