DATE:  September 7, 2004
CONTACT: Dr. Jim Needham, Extension Coordinator, Community Outreach, (361) 825-2708; Steve Paschal, Public Affairs, (361) 825-2336
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Community Outreach Receives Two Awards from Environmental Protection Agency

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has received two awards from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for projects related to the agency’s Gulf of Mexico Program.

Community Outreach’s project to provide easy disposal of oil and oily bilgewater was awarded second place in the EPA’s Partnership category. In the Youth Education category, Community Outreach and the Center for Coastal Studies took second place for their Gulf Coast Environmental Education Program.

Last year, Community Outreach Extension Coordinator Jim Needham and the Pollution Prevention Partnership developed and built six oil and bilgewater recover units for use in harbors and marinas throughout the Coastal Bend. The units, each of which holds 2,000 gallons of oily bilgewater and 300 gallons of waste engine oil, provide a place for shrimpers and other commercial boat operators to legally dispose of waste water and oily bilgewater. The project began in November 2000 as the result of a request from the City of Aransas Pass for assistance with an oil spill problem in Conn Brown Harbor caused by discharges of waste engine oil and oily bilgewater from shrimp boats and other craft. However, the project was hampered by the lack of a public facility where the units could be permanently installed, reluctance of boat operators to go to a separate location to pump out, and a lack of funding.

“The solution to the first two obstacles came with the idea of to make a portable, skid-mounted, recovery unit that could be placed at the fuel docks where boat operators buy their fuel, oil, and ice,” said Needham. “This encouraged boat operators to pump their bilges and dispose of their waste oil while they loaded fuel and other supplies.”         

The funding problem was solved through grants totaling $185,850 from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, the Coastal Management Program and the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program. In October and November of 2003 the units were installed at Corpus Christi Marina, Conn Brown Harbor, Port Aransas Marina, and Fulton Harbor. The units are operated and maintained by the partnership which includes the University, the Texas General Land Office’s Oil Spill Division, the U.S. Coast Guard, the cities of Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, the Aransas County Navigation District, Gulf King Seafood Company, JBS Seafood Company, and Odessa Pump Company.

The Gulf Coast Environmental Education Program is a multi-faceted project designed to educate people on the uniqueness and fragility of the coastal wetlands. The program, initiated by a partnership between Outreach and Coastal Studies was funded by the EPA. It consists of five Components:

  • Classroom Field Experiences- More than 1,000 students and 84 teachers participated in the 2003-2004 teachers/student field experiences.
  • Summer Kayak Camps- More than 300 students participated in the summer 2003 and 2004 summer kayak camp program.
  • Community Events- More than 1,200 people participated in four Adopt-A-Beach cleanups.
  • Teacher Workshops- In 2003 and again in 2004, the University conducted two Teaching Environmental Science I and II summer courses. Teachers received in-depth instruction in how to teach students about their local and global environmental community and received classroom and field equipment.
  • Winter Texan/Senior Programs- The Seniors’ or “Winter Texan” Program provides a one-day overview of the Coastal Bend’s ecology and relevant environmental issues and concerns. More than 260 people participated in the program during 2003 and 2004.