No timeline given for when Pelican Island Bridge will re-open after oil-carrying barge strike in Galveston

GALVESTON, Texas – The investigation continued Thursday morning on the Pelican Island Bridge after a barge carrying 30,000 barrels of vacuum gas oil, hit the causeway the day before, spilling oil into the Galveston bay.

The bridge has been closed since Wednesday afternoon, except for people who can cross by foot.

BACKGROUND: Fuel barge crashes into Galveston bridge, spilling oil and causing ‘major disruption’ in road, water traffic

KPRC 2 reporter T.J. Parker was out on the scene, where he said that the oil has to be cleaned up and the barge still needs to be removed before divers can inspect the pilings and the structural integrity. There did not appear to be a timeline, however, for when that will happen.

As you can imagine this has been quite a headache for people here on Pelican Island, trying to come and go with vehicle traffic backed up as hundreds, who were estimated to have been on the island tried leaving. The other big thing they’re dealing with besides the bridge closure is the spill response.

Several agencies are working on this scene, but the Texas General Land Office (GLO) is leading the investigation. GLO officials say their first priority is the safety of the public and responders. They then will work with response partners to control the source, and contain, as well as recover the spilled material.

PREVIOUS: Evacuations resume on Pelican Island Causeway following barge strike

As far as what’s leaking, it’s Vacuum Gas Oil, which is processed crude oil. Whatever spill has occurred can be treated like a crude oil spill and there are standard procedures to control it. Experts tell us the oil may be harmful if swallowed or enters airways. It is estimated that up to 5,000 gallons of oil leaked, forcing a 6.5-mile closure of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, causing all classes at Texas A&M University to be canceled.

Federal and state crews, as of Thursday morning, are still assessing how much damage the oil spill may have caused. The U.S. Coast Guard and state officials are also investigating reports of pollution but the full damage extent is still unknown.

KPRC 2′s T.J. Parker has reached out to the company that owns the barge, but as of this writing, has not heard back.

About the Authors

T.J. Parker joined KPRC 2 in June 2023 and is happy to be back in Houston. Before coming back to the Lone Star State, T.J. was a reporter in Miami at WSVN Channel 7. There he covered all things up and down the south Florida coast.

Historian, educator, writer, expert on "The Simpsons," amateur photographer, essayist, film & tv reviewer and race/religious identity scholar. Joined KPRC 2 in Spring 2024 but has been featured in various online newspapers and in the Journal of South Texas' Fall 2019 issue.

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