Texas Chemical Plant Leak Leaves 2 Dead, 30 Hospitalized

The incident involved an acetic acid leak at the LyondellBasell facility in the La Porte Complex, the company said

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Two people are dead and 30 were hospitalized after a chemical leak at a Houston-area plant, officials said.

LyondellBasell said that about 100,000 pounds (45,359 kilograms) of a mixture that primarily included acetic acid was released in the leak that started Tuesday evening at its La Porte Complex. The company said that the “all clear” was given early Wednesday, and that the leak had been isolated and contained.

The company said air monitoring was ongoing and hasn’t shown “actionable levels."

Two contractors were killed and 30 workers were taken to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment, the company said. Of those, it said 27 had been released as of Wednesday afternoon. The names of the contractors who died were not immediately released.

The cause was under investigation, the company said, adding it was cooperating with authorities.

Harris County Pollution Control spokesperson Dimetra Hamilton told the Houston Chronicle that a cap burst on a pressurized line of acetic acid.

The chemicals involved in the leak can severely burn skin and are toxic if inhaled, Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen said.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a statement on Twitter saying that she was “heartbroken" to learn of the deaths.

According to LyondellBasell, its La Porte Complex, located on about 550 acres (223 hectares) on the shore of the Houston Ship Channel, has over 600 employees and contractors. The company has two businesses there, one dealing with chemicals, the other with acetyls, which is where the leak occurred.

The company said acetic acid is produced to meet requirements for shipping in the food industry and is used in textiles, plastic bottles, industrial solvents and other chemicals.

Last week in La Porte, evacuation and shelter-in-place orders were issued after a chemical release at a Dow Chemical plant there. A tank truck trailer had over-pressurized, causing the chemical hydroxyethyl acrylate to escape through a safety valve. The orders were later lifted.

La Porte is located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Houston. The plant is in an unincorporated part of Harris County, adjacent to La Porte, according to a statement issued by La Porte EMS, and no shelter in place or other protective actions were recommended for the community.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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