Researchers monitor environmental effects of Hurricane Harvey

Part of the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey includes oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest coming from industrial facilities north of the Coastal Bend near Houston.

CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - Part of the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey includes oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest coming from industrial facilities north of the Coastal Bend near Houston.

But could the Coastal Bend see negative environmental effects on animals and the water?

The U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency are working to clean up a dozen oil and chemical spills from refineries and other facilities during Hurricane Harvey. That has prompted the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to begin sampling water from the bay and local Gulf waters to see if there may be bacteria harmful to sea life and our drinking water.

The good news?

Researchers said the hurricane likely sucked up much of the oil and dispersed it, leaving fewer large problem areas.

In terms of animals, sea turtles and dolphins are in the most danger since they rise to the water's surface for air, but luckily the university said the major spills are just too far away to likely impact the animals here in the Coastal Bend.

As for long-term problems with deep sea oil, we may be experiencing some of that ourselves -- not necessarily from large refineries, but from the gasoline and oil that leaked from damaged boats in the Corpus Christi Marina and in Port Aransas.

"Probably what we call the acute effects of being exposed immediately," said Larry McKinney, Executive Director of the Harte Research Institute. "We're past those because the sun and temperature has dispersed it, but there could be oil on the bottom setting in the mud, and that could have some long-term effects. We'll have to look at it."

The university is currently working with the TCEQ to collect upwards of 50 samples along our coast and in the bay, primarily looking for bacteria that could harm our drinking water. Those results should come back soon and then they will compare them to samples they took prior to Hurricane Harvey.

Thankfully, the researchers do not anticipate any serious issues locally to the animals or to our drinking water.

© 2017 KIII-TV


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