The Houston Ship Channel, one of the U.S. busiest waterways, returned to normalcy Thursday, five days after a barge collision dumped thousands of gallons of heavy oil into the water, officials said.
The channel, a conduit for ocean-going vessels between Houston-area terminals and the Gulf of Mexico, reopened to all marine traffic Thursday, state and federal officials told local media. The Texas Department of State Health Services has deemed the area safe for swimming and fishing as well.
The channel, part of the bustling Port of Houston, was shut down last Saturday when a bulk vessel collided with a barge carrying nearly a million gallons of fuel. The collision damaged a compartment on the barge and released 4,000 barrels of oil, or 168,000 gallons of oil.
More than 100 vessels ground to a halt due to the closure. Emergency crew worked for several days to contain and recover the oil spill, which had spread down into the Gulf.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Texas General Land Office deployed about 150 workers and 11 vessels to put booms in place to protect the environmentally sensitive area along the coast.
Experts said while the incident could bring about millions of economic loss and some environmental harm, it falls far short of the infamous 2010 BP oil spill, which killed 11 workers and leaked millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, triggering one of the worst ecological disasters in the country's history.