Barge Leaks 'Sticky, Tarry' Oil After Ship Collision

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A barge was leaking heavy fuel oil into the Houston Ship Channel after colliding with a large ship on Saturday, authorities said.

The barge, which was under tow, was carrying 924,000 gallons of fuel oil in several tanks, but only one tank was damaged by the collision with the 585-foot bulk carrier Summer Wind, the Coast Guard said.

The damaged tank had a capacity of 164,000 gallons and “to our knowledge the tank was full," said Michael Lambert, spokesman for the Texas General Land Office.

The collision occurred when the motor vessel Miss Susan was towing the barge from Texas City to Bolivar. The barge and tow boat’s owner, Kirby Inland Marine, was working with the Coast Guard on a response.

There were conflicting reports on injuries. The Coast Guard said there were none, but the Texas General Land Office said there were two minor injuries, and the Galveston Daily News reported that Texas City Homeland Security Director Bruce Clawson said two crew members were treated for exposure to fumes.

Aerial photos showed a heavy sheen of oil leaking from the damaged barge, which was sinking low in the water. The Coast Guard said it was uncertain how much fuel had spilled into the 50-mile channel, which runs about 50 miles from Houston out toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Jim Suydam, another spokesman for the Texas General Land Office, told The Associated Press that the oil on the barge was "sticky, gooey, thick, tarry stuff."

"That stuff is terrible to have to clean up," he told the AP.

NBC News' Jay Blackman and Ali Fateh contributed to this report.