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CREWS TOIL AS OIL SOILS GALVESTON BEACHES

SHARE CREWS TOIL AS OIL SOILS GALVESTON BEACHES

Oil from a 50,000-gallon spill washed up on beaches in Galveston Bay Monday, despite booms and skimmers dispatched to contain the crude oil leaking from two barges that collided with a tanker.

As skimmers and booms were moved into place, state and federal officials planned to discuss the possible use of oil-chomping microbes to eat away at the spill.Patches of spilled oil covered a 5-mile stretch of the bay, which is bordered by a number of environmentally sensitive marshes, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Gene Maestas.

The Houston Ship Channel has remained closed since the Saturday accident because one of the oil-laden barges sank. Work to empty and refloat that barge was to begin later Monday, but the Coast Guard said the channel could remain closed until Wednesday.

Two skimmers were deployed in the bay Monday to begin cleaning up the oil, and a third was expected later in the day. A vacuum barge also headed for Redfish Island, where oil already was reported on beaches.

The Coast Guard had no immediate estimate of how much oil had reached the island.

Booms also were set up to keep the oil from reaching Salt and Dickinson bayous, areas of saltwater marsh that are home to migratory birds and sensitive marine life, Maestas said.

Any oil reaching the Galveston Bay shore would have "a horrible impact on fish-eating herons, egrets and pelicans," said Gary Clark, president of the Houston Audubon Society.

Texas Water Commission Chairman B.J. "Buck" Wynne was to meet later Monday with federal officials to discuss the possible spraying of oil-eating microbes onto the spill.

The microbes, part of a process known as bioremediation, were used on a small portion of the 3.9 million gallons of light crude that spilled from the tanker Mega Borg in the Gulf of Mexico last month.