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Kirby Inland Marine to pay $4.9m for Houston Ship Channel oil spill

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Staff Writer | September 27, 2016
Kirby Inland Marine has agreed to pay $4.9 million in Clean Water Act civil penalties and to implement fleet-wide operational improvements.
Houston Ship Channel
Pollution   Approximately 160 miles of shoreline were oiled
This will be done to settle claims stemming from a 4,000-barrel (168,000-gallon) oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel in March 2014, the Department of Justice and the Coast Guard announced.

In its complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas along with the notice of lodging of a consent decree, the United States alleges that Kirby is liable under the Clean Water Act for the oil spill.

The spill occurred on March 22, 2014, when a Kirby tow boat, the Miss Susan, was pushing two 300-foot oil barges in the “Texas City Y” area of the Houston Ship Channel in fog conditions.

Despite detecting the nearby presence of a 585-foot bulk cargo ship, the Summer Wind, traveling up the Houston Ship Channel, Kirby’s tow boat and barges tried to cross the channel in front of the cargo ship.

As a result, Kirby’s lead oil barge was struck by the cargo ship and approximately 4,000 barrels of heavy marine fuel oil spilled out of the barge into the waterway. From there, oil flowed out of the channel and spread down the Texas coastline.

Approximately 160 miles of shoreline were oiled as a result of the spill, including sensitive marsh habitat, the national wildlife refuge on Matagorda Island, Mustang Island State Park and Padre Island National Seashore.

A full assessment of the injuries caused by the spill to marine and terrestrial natural resources is ongoing and will be addressed separately.