Environment
9:49 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Investigators Looking Into Weekend Mission Reach Fuel Spill

Dead grass from an oil spill along the Museum Reach in May 2013.
Dead grass from an oil spill along the Museum Reach in May 2013.
Credit Eileen Pace / TPR News

Investigators are looking into a weekend fuel spill that shut down paddling trails on the San Antonio River. Oil booms were still in place along the Mission Reach Monday, but parts of the river closed Saturday were open again.

The good thing is the spill was small and no wildlife were harmed, but this is the second spill at the Calumet refinery, which produces ultra-low sulfur diesel, naptha, specialty solvents, vacuum gas and jet fuel, the product that spilled on the ground and into a San Antonio River tributary late Friday evening.

San Antonio River Authority spokesman Steven Schauer said thanks to fire department booms placed in the water, the spill did not leak downstream, but there is shore damage that will need remediation.

“Typically it would mean removal of contaminated soil, rocks, vegetation, basically removing the contaminated material and then re-vegetating and reestablishing a cleaner growth in that area,” Schauer said.

Schauer said this is the second spill by the Calumet refinery this year and two other incidents over the last three years involved fires at the company that caused some river damage due to flame retardant firefighters had to use on the fires.

“Flame retardant as well as the fuel on the site; some of that also did get into that small tributary and into the San Antonio River in both of those incidents as well,” Schauer said.

Schauer said the March incident did kill some birds on the Mission Reach, though this weekend's incident did not result in wildlife contamination or fish kills.

Whether Calumet will face a fine or other penalty remains to be seen. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is reportedly investigating both the March spill and this weekend’s spill.