Onshore impacts and cleanup during the Burmah Agate oil spill - November 1979
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Of the 250,000 barrels (bbl) of oil spilled or consumed by fire during the Burmah Agate spill off Galveston, Texas, in November 1979, 2, 100 bbl eventually reached the shore. Fortunately, because of the predominance of offshore, northerly winds in November 1979, most of the oil not consumed by fire dispersed offshore or was contained and recovered at the wreck site. Daily aerial and ground surveys at reference stations were conducted to locate impacts and monitor the persistence of oil onshore. Beach impacts directly attributable to the Burmah Agate occurred as far as 470 kilometers (km) from the wreck near Mansfield Pass, Texas. The first major impact occurred on November 8 and 9 when approximately 500 bbl impacted a 10-km section of San Jose Island, 250 km southwest of the wreck. Due to relative inaccessibility, and rapid recovery of the beach, no cleanup was attempted. By November 16, 1979, less than 25 percent of the impact remained buried or on the beachface. The heaviest onshore impact of Burmah Agate oil occurred November 19 to 21 whet up to 1,500 bbl beached along the western half of Galveston Island. Cleanup was initially by manual labor and front-end loaders; however, by November 23, the primary method of cleanup involved pooling the oil by hand labor and picking it up with vacuum trucks. This latter method considerably reduced the volume of sand removed from the beach. Cleanup and manicuring the beach were virtually complete by November 27. Other minor impacts of less than 50 bbl occurred sporadically during the spill from Bolivar Peninsula to Brown Cedar Cut. The only known marsh impact occurred on November 9, when approximately 5 bbl coated 400 meters of fringing marsh along Smith Point in Galveston Bay.