Weeks After TPC Port Neches Plant Explosion, Clean-Up Efforts Continue in Southeast Texas
More than two weeks after a pair of explosions and massive fire destroyed the TPC Group’s Port Neches petrochemical plant, residents of several southeast Texas communities are waiting for life to return to normal.
TPC Contractor Working to Clear Explosion Debris
Debris from the disaster still litters neighborhoods near the blast site, including yards and school playgrounds located miles away. The TPC Group has hired a contractor to clear the debris, and people living in the affected communities have been warned not to touch the material. So far, wipe testing of indoor and outdoor surfaces has not detected any asbestos in the samples.
On Monday, the TPC Group began introducing DEHA (Diethylhydroxylamine) to storage tanks containing butadiene. The addition of the chemical is intended to stabilize the materials for longer-term storage, transportation, and removal from the site. No off-site impacts or public health concerns are anticipated as part of the DEHA process.
Adjacent Huntsman Plant Warns of Flaring During Extended Restart
Earlier this week, Huntsman, which operates a plant next to the TPC facility in Port Neches, warned residents to expect “periodic flaring” at structures along Spur 136 from now until early March.
The TPC plant explosion forced Huntsman to shut down the adjacent facility. While that plant was not damaged, some of the piping that supplied feedstock chemicals to the unit from the TPC Group was destroyed. The company has since resumed operations at all units except for one PO/MTBE processor, and indicated an extended turnaround and restart process would bring additional traffic to the area in January and February.
“We do not anticipate any significant issues,” Huntsman said in a letter to residents. “However, please keep in mind that flaring that occurs at night may appear to be heavier due to cloud cover reflections.”
TPC Plant Explosion Injured 3 Workers
The November 27th explosions and fire injured three workers at the TPC plant in Port Neches and forced more than 60,000 people in several southeast Texas communities to evacuate their homes through Thanksgiving Day. While the main fire was contained that Friday, smaller blazes continued to burn on the property through the weekend.
A second evacuation order – this time voluntary – was announced for Port Neches on December 4th, after high levels of butadiene – a known carcinogen – were detected across the community.
While the TPC Group has vowed to rebuild the facility, the Port Neches plant is expected to remain closed for an extended period of time. Workers, however, will be paid through the end of the year.
So far, it’s not clear exactly what triggered the explosions. Last week, an investigator with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board suggested “fundamental failures” were to blame for the disaster.
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