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High levels of benzene detected at ITC fire site

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Emergency crews working the extinguished fire site at Intercontinental Terminals Co. in Deer Park are addressing escaping vapors. Local governmental officials issued a shelter in place Thursday morning after TCEQ air monitors detected high levels of benzene. Residents should go to webpages by Deer Park exit and Harris County exit for the latest information concerning any health warnings, including the current shelter in place.

One-hour levels of benzene in Deer Park were measured at a maximum of 190.68 parts per billion at 4 a.m., dropping to 48.03 ppb at 5 a.m. and 8.12 ppb at 6 a.m. Short-term exposure to one-hour benzene concentrations above 180 ppb can be a cause for health concern. Elevated benzene concentrations of 165.17 ppb were also measured at the Lynchburg Ferry monitoring station at 9 p.m. Wednesday as winds shifted from north to south. Levels at the maximum range detected could cause headaches and nausea, but it does not pose any lasting effects.

Anyone in the area needs to heed all public health warnings. Officials from Deer Park and Harris County are making decisions regarding necessary public health actions, using data that TCEQ and others are providing.

Because the fires are no longer burning, vapor from remaining exposed chemicals can escape. The remaining product is being removed, and vapor suppression activities are continuing.

TCEQ’s emergency response team, Houston regional staff, and a team sent from the agency’s Beaumont office continue to do extensive handheld air monitoring in the vicinity in coordination with the incident comment. TCEQ is also utilizing its extensive ambient air monitoring network in the area, including two additional temporary monitoring stations that were deployed from Austin earlier this week and strategically placed according to the needs of the unified command.

TCEQ has requested that EPA provide its Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer (TAGA) bus exit, which has extensive mobile air monitoring capabilities. It will arrive today and begin operations. EPA’s Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT) plane exit continues to provide air monitoring flights over the area.

See TCEQ’s ITC Fire Incident webpage for updates concerning this response, including trending graphs and a map with real-time data from TCEQ’s stationary ambient monitoring sites via GeoTAM.