Some volunteers already have found ways to help in the Galveston Bay oil spill cleanup effort, while many more wait to be called into service.
Hundreds of people have signed up as volunteers to help deal with the oil spill, said Bob Stokes, president of the Galveston Bay Foundation.
About 500 emergency responders are in the field cleaning up oil that leaked after a barge and cargo ship collided Saturday. The barge leaked more than 168,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil into Galveston Bay.
But for those who are not trained responders, the best way to get involved is to sign up through the Galveston Bay Foundation, officials said.
The Webster based nonprofit, which was established in 1987 to preserve and enhance the natural resources of the bay, is tasked with managing the volunteer operation, Stokes said.
The foundation established a contractual relationship with U.S. Coast Guard and the General Land Office to serve as the volunteer management group in 2012 in case something like the oil spill occurred, he said.
“We are anxious to try to get volunteers involved, but, really, we have to defer to the Coast Guard to make that decision,” Stokes said.
Stokes said he thought volunteers might be called in within a day or two.
When volunteers get called, they will not be involved in direct clean up. Professionals will do that kind of work, Stokes said.
For the safety of animals and workers, the task of cleaning wildlife covered in oil will also be left to professionals, he said.
Organizations such as the Wildlife Response Services and the nonprofit Wildlife Center of Texas are working alongside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to respond to incidents of wildlife covered oil, he said.
The Houston Audubon Society has stated that its team of avian scientist is also assisting the state and federal wildlife departments in spotting birds affected by the oil spill. But the group stated it is not asking for volunteers at this time.
Donating to wildlife groups may be the best way to help affected wildlife, Stokes said.
When it comes to responding to the oil spill, volunteers will play a support role, he said.
It could also be that volunteers will be asked to do pre-cleaning of beaches — picking up trash and debris — in Brazoria County where oil that is now offshore may wash ashore later in the week, he said.
Some groups with an established volunteers base have been able to call on those volunteers to help in the oil spill effort.
Coast Guard Capt. Brian Penoyer said Galveston County has staffed a call center with its Community Emergency Response Team volunteers.
Those volunteers are answering calls and then passing along information, including wildlife reports, to the command center, Penoyer said.
The call center has received hundreds of calls, he said.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary, an all-volunteer force, has also been involved in clean up efforts, Penoyer said.
Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help
- To sign up as volunteer visit the Galveston Bay Foundation website: www.galvbay.org
- To report wildlife injured by spill: 888-384-2000
- Donations can be sent to:
- Houston Audubon Society, 440 Wilchester Boulevard, Houston, TX
- The Galveston Bay Foundation, 17330 Highway 3, Webster, TX
- Wildlife Center of Texas, 7007 Katy Road, Houston, TX