Harbor Island is in Port Aransas City Limits and has been since around the 1920’s according to old maps. Harbor Island did have crude oil storage tanks on it from the late 1930’s. Harbor Island was decommissioned as a storage facility in 1991 by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC). Some tanks were removed starting in the 1970’s and more were removed in the 80’s. Final removal of all tanks was completed in 2002.
Unfortunately during the operations by Fina and Exxon the tanks and connecting underground pipes were not being maintained or replaced and crude oil contaminated both soil and groundwater for over a decade as can be seen in aerial photos from the early 1980’s.
Remediation efforts started with Exxon for a large area of contamination in 1996 and were partially completed in 1999. Fina started some remediation in 1999 and received a “No further Action” status (2002), but with restrictive covenants for the entire tract concerning the ground water. Exxon also started remediating other spill locations around 2006 and continued until around 2011. Exxon and the Port of Corpus Christi Authority (POCCA) received a “No Further Action” status (2014) from the RRC, but again with restrictive covenants concerning both soil disturbance and groundwater. Both sets of covenants “run with the land”. All these covenants and agreements omitted any notice to the City of Port Aransas.
Harbor Island is in the defined area of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area, which was specifically created to protect area estuary marsh habitat and essential fishery nursery areas such as Harbor Island. POCCA’s proposals for a crude oil storage facility and export terminal along with a desalination plant a pose huge risk to this estuary. Port Aransas is a fishing town with great beaches. The Port Aransas economy is based on tourism. There is no upside for our town from POCCA’s proposals. Tourists come here because this is one of the last coastal towns where nature has not been tainted or displaced by heavy industry.
We have hundreds of documents concerning past and current contamination on Harbor Island; it is still plenty dirty. POCCA argues that it is OK put tanks back on Harbor Island because that is what was there before—long before. The Port Aransas Conservancy considers it ridiculous to put further possible contamination on top of existing contamination that can never be completely remediated. Right now, Deer Park is a terrible example of what could happen to the estuary if there were a fire or an oil spill.
The restrictive covenants are there for a reason. Harbor Island is the worst possible place for a tank farm. It should not be allowed.
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