Ship channel cleanup continues as wildlife suffers

As skimmers clean the water of contaminants from the ITC fire, progress is made on the Houston ship channel. 

More ships are being let through today, but there are also more wildlife deaths.

The skimming boat has been going through the channel on Thursday, collecting the oily contaminated water.

The ferry is also closed. That’s because it connects to Independence Parkway, which has been blocked in both directions ever since the fire started 11 days ago.

All this pollution is not good for the local wildlife.

“There’s a lot of animals that are at stake, especially the fish that are out here," said Adam Adams with the EPA. 

14 dead fish have been  collected from the ship channel near the ITC facility since the fire. Today, the EPA added a bird and a frog to that list, in addition to a turtle.

“[We are] recovering those and determining a potential cause for that," said Adams.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has advised people not to consume fish in the ship channel since 2013.

In the past 24 hours, they’ve amended that advisory, adding there is currently a risk of volatile organic compounds in the area of the water impacted by ITC facility.

The advisory is not deterring people in the area from fishing. 

“I don’t eat saltwater fish, so for me it’s catch and release," says Chris Garcia, a Baytown resident.

This is as the coast guard and EPA continue to add containment boom.

“We’re roughly about 77,000 feet of containment boom protecting sensitive areas, protecting the flow of oil outside of the impact area," said Adams. 

Coast Guard officials say shifting winds in the past day allowed some oil to spread as far west as the Beltway 8 bridge in Buffalo Bayou.

Despite that, skimmers were able to recover 11,900 barrels of oil yesterday. The cleanup progress is allowing more vessels to go through the channel.

“Yesterday we moved 15 ships through the impacted area," said Captain Kevin Oditt with the U.S. Coast Guard. "That’s approximately 35% of the typical traffic that moves through that area.”

Back at the ITC tank farm, crews are focused on finishing their work securing the contents of the toluene tank and moving on to securing two additional gas blend tanks.

Company executive Brent Weber stood up for his CEO on Thursday. 

“I know my CEO. I know his character," Weber said. "I can assure you he’s sincere. He’s genuine, I’m proud to work for Mr. Netland.”

ITC officials told us on Thursday that they still don’t have a timeline on when they’ll finish pumping and cleaning out their tank farm.

The ship channel also doesn’t have a timeline yet on when it will be fully reopened.