Fire at Southeast Texas Petrochemicals Storage Facility Extinguished: Officials - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Fire at Southeast Texas Petrochemicals Storage Facility Extinguished: Officials

There's still a possibility of additional fires being reignited

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Fire Extinguished at Southeast Texas Chemical Plant

    The large fire that burned for several days at a Southeast Texas petrochemicals storage facility and sent a plume of pitch-black smoke thousands of feet into the atmosphere has been extinguished, plant officials say. (Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019)

    Crews on Wednesday extinguished a large fire that burned for several days at a Houston-area petrochemicals storage facility and led to concerns about air quality among some residents and environmental groups despite reassurances from officials that testing shows nothing amiss.

    International Terminals Company spokeswoman Alice Richardson said at a news conference Wednesday that crews were cleaning up at the facility southeast of Houston so the investigation can begin into what caused the blaze.

    The fire, which started Sunday , sent a huge, dark plume of smoke thousands of feet into the air before being extinguished at 3 a.m. Wednesday. The tanks that caught fire contained components of gasoline and materials used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner. ITC said 11 of the 15 storage tanks located in the area where the fire occurred were damaged.

    The Environmental Protection conducted air quality tests throughout the Houston area, both on the ground and from a small airplane, and "measured no levels of hazardous concentrations," said agency official Adam Adams.

    Raw: Houston-Area Chemical Plant Left Charred After Fire

    [DFW] Raw: Houston-Area Chemical Plant Left Charred After Fire

    International Terminals Company said the blaze in Deer Park, a suburb near Houston, was extinguished as of 3 a.m. Wednesday. The fire began Sunday at the facility southeast of Houston, sending a huge, dark plume of smoke thousands of feet in the air, though officials said air quality remained safe.

    (Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019)

    The EPA also reviewed data collected by ITC, Harris County, where Houston is located, and by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and that data did not show hazardous concentrations of volatile organic compounds, Adams said.

    The state environmental agency said in a statement Wednesday that the benzene levels it found near and around the storage facility do not pose a health concern.

    But some residents who live near the storage facility said Wednesday they don't have confidence in the air quality test results.

    "Everything has been wrapped up in this nice perfect bow in saying that there were no problems. Every air quality was perfect. Every wind was perfect blowing it away. And if everything was so perfect, why did it happen?" longtime Deer Park resident Terri Garcia said.

    Bryan Parras, an organizer in Houston with the Sierra Club, said some residents who live near the facility have experienced various symptoms since the fire, including headaches, nausea and nose bleeds. He said his environmental group has concerns not just about the air quality, but about potential impacts to the environment and the fishing industry if chemicals from the storage facility or foam used to fight the fire leaked into the Houston Ship Channel, which leads to the Gulf of Mexico.

    "This issue isn't over just because the fire is out. We want systems in place that will protect our communities," Parras said.

    Petrochemical Company 'Very Sorry' for Fire

    [DFW] Petrochemical Company 'Very Sorry' for Fire

    Intercontinental Terminals Company spokeswoman Alice Richardson fights tears when asked if the company would apologize to the community of Deer Park during a Tuesday morning news conference.

    (Published Tuesday, March 19, 2019)

    The EPA and the TCEQ said they are waiting for test results of water samples to determine any potential impacts from the foam used to fight the fire on waterways next to the storage facility, including the Houston Ship Channel.

    Sema Hernandez, who lives in Pasadena, just west of Deer Park, said all four of her children have experienced headaches since the fire started Sunday. But she has not been able to take them to a doctor because she doesn't have health insurance.

    "This shouldn't have happened. ... But it did. My question is, what do we do now?" Hernandez said.

    The Harris County Public Health Department said in a statement Wednesday that based on current health-related data from multiple sources, "there continues to be a low health risk for the general public."

    Richardson said her company has been in Deer Park for more than 40 years and would work to regain the community's trust.

    "We want to operate safely with minimal impact around us," Richardson said. "We're sorry for what has happened."

    Texas Plant Fire Intensifies After Drop in Water Pressure

    [DFW] Texas Plant Fire Intensifies After Drop in Water Pressure

    Authorities say a drop in water pressure caused a large fire at a Houston-area petrochemicals terminal to intensify overnight and spread to additional storage tanks.

    (Published Tuesday, March 19, 2019)

    Garcia said she fears that she and other residents will be dealing with the impacts of the fire long after people have forgotten about it.

    "We are going to be the ones figuring out what was really in the air ... because our families are the ones going to be sick," she said.

    Associated Press writer David Warren in Dallas contributed to this report.

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