Mar 18, 2019
A petrochemical plant near Houston continued to burn for a second day on Monday, raising questions about the quality and safety of the air.
The Deer Park facility is owned by Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), which said the fire broke out at roughly 10:30am Sunday. Seven tanks are involved, the company said, and they contain naptha, xylene, "gas blend stocks," and "base oil."
"It's going to have to burn out at the tank," Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which is aiding the response effort, said at a news conference. It could take "probably two days" for that to happen, he added.
\u201cPETROCHEMICAL FIRE IN TEXAS: A fire at a fuels storage company has spread to eight massive petrochemical storage tanks, shutting schools and forcing residents around Deer Park, Texas to stay indoors https://t.co/k4CWwLuUuY\u201d— NowThis (@NowThis) 1552927856
No injuries were immediately reported.
"Although the risk of explosion is minimal, we continue to take precautions to further reduce this possibility," the company said (pdf) in a statemnt.
An order to shelter in place for the city of Deer Park was lifted Monday morning.
Filming outside the plant on Monday, local ABC13 reporter Miya Shay said that despite the assertion by the city, informed by results from a private air monitoring contractor, that the air quality was safe, it is "hard to believe it's all fine."
\u201cI am at the ITC plant fire, where company officials insist the air quality is within limits. Fire May take two more days to burn out. Watch my video and you decide if it\u2019s a problem. #ITCfire #deerparkfire #abc13 https://t.co/sSccL5omag\u201d— Miya Shay (@Miya Shay) 1552926034
As Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, pointed out, "Intercontinental Terminals estimates the fire has already resulted in 3.1 million pounds of unauthorized emissions. That's more than all the facilities in the Houston area put out during Harvey."
What's more, he said, the company "has a history of violations. For example, the company discharged cyanide in to the impaired Tucker Creek eight times above permitted levels--once as high as 1138 percent above the permit."
\u201cIntercontinental Terminals estimates the fire has already resulted in 3.1 million pounds of unauthorized emissions. That\u2019s more than all the facilities in the Houston area put out during Harvey. https://t.co/yNvnBPAkzF\u201d— Luke Metzger (@Luke Metzger) 1552930294
\u201cIntercontinental Terminals Company, which has 8 tanks on fire right now, has a history of violations. For example, the company discharged cyanide in to the impaired Tucker Creek eight times above permitted levels - once as high as 1138% above the permit. https://t.co/ECr4ZIRNCb\u201d— Luke Metzger (@Luke Metzger) 1552916996
The Deer Park incident erupted just one day after a fire broke out roughly a dozen miles away at ExxonMobil's massive refinery in Baytown. That fire has been contained.
The Texas arm of advocacy group Public Citizen pointed to the recent incidents as evidence that the Environment Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should do a better job at protecting public health:
\u201cIn 2016, a @houstonchron investigation found a chemical incident in the Houston area every six weeks. We've seen two just in the past weekend alone. \n\nIt's time for @tceq and @epa to strengthen enforcement and protect public health.\n\nhttps://t.co/5qFrUXw4a7 #cleanuptceq\u201d— Public Citizen Texas (@Public Citizen Texas) 1552934146
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