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News Releases from Region 06

TCEQ adjusts after dike breach, fires at ITC site

03/25/2019
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Worsening and unstable conditions as a result of a dike breach surrounding a chemical tank farm and subsequent fires at Intercontinental Terminals Co. in Deer Park forced TCEQ and its partners on Friday and Saturday to adjust their response.

The agency’s priority is to protect public health and the environment. By providing accurate data on air and water quality around the site, local governmental authorities can issue appropriate health warnings for the safety of the public and first responders. TCEQ encourages residents to heed all health warnings from local officials.

TCEQ staff continue working around the clock. The agency mobilized resources from our Beaumont, Corpus Christi, and Harlingen regional offices and contractors to support its Houston regional office with the full support from headquarters in Austin.

WATER MONITORING AND CLEANUP

TCEQ’s environmental contractor, under the direction of the TCEQ and the Coast Guard, have been taking actions to contain runoff from the ITC site, including from the dike breach, via booms and pumping it to storage containers. The Coast Guard’s Gulf Strike Team exit, which specializes in spill cleanups, has been called in to assist. NOAA is providing spill trajectories to the unified command.

TCEQ and its contractor have been sampling surface water since Tuesday and have offered to fund additional help from Texas A&M University. After the dike was breached on Friday, water sampling was temporarily suspended, but quickly resumed once it was safe to do so.

TCEQ has been analyzing water quality data Adobe Acrobat PDF Document from the ditch leading from the facility and collected by the TCEQ and ITC’s contractor exit. The agency is evaluating for 117 constituents as part of a thorough lab analysis. Nine constituents in the samples tested thus far exceeded their health-protective concentration level, including total xylenes, pyrene, anthracene, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, phenanthrene, fluoranthene, and 2-methylnaphthalene. As other results of the analyses are complete, they will be made available via TCEQ’s ITC response page. Surface water sampling continues in Tucker Bayou, the Houston Ship Channel, and where the channel enters Galveston Bay.

No threat to local public drinking water systems has been detected, and no drinking water system draws its source water from the Houston Ship Channel.

AIR MONITORING

During Friday’s reignited fire, one of TCEQ’s temporary air monitoring stations registered high levels of benzene at about 4 p.m. directly across the Houston Ship Channel at 207 parts per billion. ITC issued an onsite shelter-in-place until it was safe to resume operations. After the new fire was extinguished at approximately 5 p.m., EPA’s TAGA bus exit had readings of 1,000 ppb of benzene on Peninsula Street, near Buffalo Bayou. Short-term exposure to one-hour benzene concentrations above 180 ppb can be a cause for health concern.

Overnight, benzene levels across all stationary monitors in the Houston area remained low. There was one elevated reading of 26.8 ppb at the Channelview stationary monitor at 6 p.m. with concentrations dropping back down to the low parts per billion range for subsequent hourly measurements.

At 5 a.m., the Channelview monitor recorded a 70.5 ppb benzene reading; subsequently, hourly readings returned to low levels. Temporary monitoring stations relocated today to the Jacinto Port Boulevard area to be directly downwind of ITC. TCEQ teams are combing the area around ITC with hand-held air monitors Adobe Acrobat PDF Document.

Check TCEQ’s ITC Fire Incident webpage for updates concerning this response. Residents should go to webpages by Deer Park exitHarris County exit, or their city to check for latest health warnings and heed them.