A barge that spilled 168,000 gallons (635,000 liters) of oil Saturday into Galveston Bay is threatening a refuge that’s crucial habitat for thousands of birds, experts say.
The spill occurred when the barge collided with a ship in the Houston Ship Channel near Texas City, on the western coast of Galveston Bay.
The area is about 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Bolivar Peninsula, which is home to the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, a preserved area of marshy mudflats that’s home to a variety of geese, ducks, herons, and other waterbirds.
The government’s cleanup efforts began immediately, with 24 response vessels working to skim the oil and to stop the leak from the damaged barge, which was carrying more than 900,000 gallons (3.4 million liters) of oil.
About 69,000 feet (21,000 meters) of oil-absorbing boom have been placed around the site of the spill and along sensitive shorelines, according to the Coast Guard.
At least 50 oiled birds have been discovered so far, though the number will likely be much higher as rescuers expand their search, said Richard Gibbons, conservation director of Houston Audubon.
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