AUSTIN — A state and local effort that's kept boaters from pumping more than 1.3 million gallons of oily bilge water into Texas coastal waters earned national recognition this week.
The General Land Office's Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program and the Matagorda County Navigation District No. One of Palacios won the 2011 Gulf Guardian Award for Partnership. The national award is presented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf of Mexico Program.
"The Gulf Guardian Award winners demonstrate great examples of collaborative efforts leading to solutions that address the Gulf of Mexico environment," said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. "Their accomplishments are making a positive difference in protecting and restoring the Gulf and EPA is pleased to recognize their environmental stewardship."
Since 1998, the General Land Office and the Port of Palacios have worked together to keep oily bilge water from being pumped into sensitive coastal waters by providing a free reclamation facility at the port, as well as mobile pump-out trailers for the shrimper fleet that moors at Palacios. Prior to the pump-out facilities, 35 to 40 percent of all spills in the area were in the immediate vicinity of fishing vessels.
Since 1998, Clean Harbor meetings and exercises hosted by the port ensure all boat owners have at least one opportunity each year to satisfy General Land Office-required oil spill response plans and receive any updates on the free services offered by the port. These programs (what programs?)work together with the Clean Harbor program to communicate and foster an appreciation for clean waterways by the community and visitors to Palacios. The success of the partnership can be measured in the 1.2 million gallons of oily bilge water removed from port vessels, the safe and efficient recycling of 531,000 gallons of used oil and removal of 31,000 oil filters, to date.
The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive.