The Houston Ship Canal reopened to daylight traffic after being closed for nearly a week due to a serious fire and chemical leaks which forced the closure of the waterway.
The fire was at the Intercontinental Terminals Co plant at Deer Park on Mar 17 and it has been described as the worst industrial disaster on the US Gulf for nearly 15 years. The affected tank farm held 15 tanks.
The blaze saw thick black smoke over the area as the oil by-products burned and dangerous chemicals leaked into waterways, heading for Galveston Bay, forcing the closure of the Ship Canal, which connects Houston to the US Gulf.
Firefighting foam was used to try and stem the fire, and skimmers and lorries using vacuum pumps were brought in to curb and remove the oily waste A massive clean-up operation was launched immediately involving national and local agencies.
There was another flare-up on Mar 22 which saw more chemicals leaking into waterways. Among the tasks being carried out that day was the draining of flammable compounds from exposed tanks, then a wall around the tank farm was breached around noon. On Mar 29, the Gulf Agency Co said all tows transiting the contaminated zone had to maintain a 30-minute gap from the tow in front and proceed slowly.
“All vessels were being inspected for contamination prior to their departure from the contaminated area, and there was one-way traffic only for ships through the spill area but tows were moving two-way,” the agency said. On Apr 1, there was an aerial survey of the incident site to evaluate the progress of the recovery and the Unified Command, leading the operation, reported that to date, more than 61,000 barrels of oily water mixture had been removed from the waterways.