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K-Solv Channelview Plant Fire Released Over 40 Contaminants Into Harris County Atmosphere


Last week’s massive fire at the K-Solv chemical plant in the Channelview area of Houston, Texas, may have exposed nearby residents to more than 40 contaminants, including some known hazardous substances.

According to environmental advocates, the long list of chemicals released during the disaster only highlights the ongoing risk that communities near industrial sites face every day in Texas.

“Pollution typically isn’t as visible as it was during this event,” Air Alliance Houston’s Corey Williams told The Houston Chronicle. “But the chronic exposure risks that occur every day at the interface between these facilities and communities is something that I think is more troubling than these one-off events.”

Plume from K-Solv Fire Could be Seen for Miles

The K-Solv plant fire erupted shortly before 4:00 p.m. on April 7th, as one storage drum’s contents were being transferred to another. The giant plume of smoke generated by the blaze could be seen for miles throughout northeast Harris County.

All workers managed to escape the facility. However, one K-Solv employee was taken to a local hospital with “mild respiratory irritation.”

Although air monitors did not detect any unsafe pollution levels, residents of Lakeside Park Estates and Lakeview Homes were ordered to shelter-in-place for several hours as a precaution.

First responders finally managed to extinguish the fire by 6:20 p.m., and the shelter-in-place order was lifted at 7:00 p.m.

Early Estimate of Chemicals Released by K-Solv Fire

K-Solv has since filed an early estimate of released chemicals with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The document lists a total of 41 contaminants, including the following hazardous substances:

  • Tetrachloroethylene: Inhalation can cause respiratory tract and eye irritation, kidney dysfunction, neurological effects, and unconsciousness. Long-term exposure may affect the kidney, liver, and immune system. Tetrachloroethylene is also considered a “likely” carcinogen.
  • Trichloroethylene: Prolonged or repeated exposure can cause kidney cancer. Exposure is also linked to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and liver cancer. Symptoms of exposure include euphoria, facial numbness, and weakness.
  • Naphtha: Inhalation can irritate the nose and throat.  Exposure can also cause headaches, dizziness, and unconsciousness. Nervous system damage may result from repeated exposure.
  • TolueneExposure can cause fatigue, headaches, and nausea. Irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, sore throat, and dizziness may occur with repeated exposure.
  • Xylene: Inhalation can cause eye and throat irritation that results in coughing and wheezing; Exposure can cause headache, dizziness, and unconsciousness.

Channelview Plant Has History of Safety and Environmental Violations

Located in the 1000 block of Lakeside Drive, the K-Solv plant houses various chemicals that support the region’s petrochemical and hydrocarbon industries. The facility also provides tank cleaning services for customers in those industries.

According to records reviewed by The Houston Chronicle, Harris County dispatched inspectors to the plant 16 times between 2003 and 2016. Ten of those site visits were triggered by complaints, most involving odors and smoke.

In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined the facility $50,000 for failing to report a certain form related to chemical releases. That same year, the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration levied a $3,070 fine against K-Solv over its handling of hazardous materials, including a drum that had not been properly closed.

In 2015, the EPA fined the facility $51,000 for violating the federal Clean Air Act. Those violations included failing to keep complete records relating to barge depressurizing and degassing operations, as well as improper venting of acetic acid.

In 2017, the TCEQ cited the Channelview plant for failing to comply with a maximum allowable emissions rate for NOx and failing to prevent unauthorized outdoor burning and solid waste disposal.

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