ITC Deer Park Fire Site Remains Active, Investigators Unable to Access Hot Zone
The ITC Deer Park petrochemical plant remains hazardous today, more than two weeks after a massive tank fire began sending dangerous clouds of toxic fumes into the sky above the Houston Metro Region.
No Timeline for Investigators to Enter ITC Deer Park Fire Site
Crews have so far removed more than 1.7 million gallons of toxic chemicals and fire-suppressant foam from the site, while 9 of 15 tanks are now empty and secured. The remaining tanks, however, contain highly-flammable naphtha, as well as gasoline blend stocks and base oils. Their contents have also saturated the surrounding ground.
ITC initially said federal, state, and local investigators could access the site today. But because the hot zone remains active and dangerous, those plans have changed.
“Obviously we have to get the tank farm completely secure,” ITC incident commander Brent Weber said at a Monday morning news conference. “Hopefully days not weeks, but we can’t give you an exact timeline.”
Pumping Issue Caused Elevated Benzene Levels
Clouds of benzene, a known human carcinogen, continue to periodically erupt from the ITC Deer Park plant.
A pumping issue also caused elevated benzene levels in the immediate vicinity on Sunday. Management at the nearby LyondellBasell and GEO Specialty Chemicals facilities sent their non-essential workers home and ordered the remaining employees to shelter-in-place. Those orders, however, did not affect nearby residents,
According to Harris County Public Health, the air quality throughout the Houston Metro Region remains safe for the general public, but elderly people, children, and those with chronic conditions who live near the plant may be more sensitive.
Houston Ship Channel Remains Restricted
Traffic on the Houston Ship Channel remains restricted to daylight hours, and the U.S. Coast Guard continues to inspect the hulls of ships for chemicals.
The Channel completely closed to traffic on March 22nd, after the partial collapse of a containment dike at the site of the ITC Deer Park fire allowed an unknown quantity of oily sludge to flow into the waterway.
The Coast Guard has deployed about 20 miles of containment boom around the affected shoreline, and so far, crews have been able to remove 64,000 barrels of (2.5 million gallons) of oil/water mixture from the Channel.
Hundreds Sickened by ITC Deer Park Plant Fire
The ITC Deer Park fire erupted on St. Patrick’s Day morning, and continued to burn for nearly four days.
Hundreds of people throughout the Houston Metro Region have since experienced symptoms and medical issues likely related to the hydrocarbons released during the blaze, including sore throats, headaches, nose bleeds, nausea and vomiting. Benzene and others chemicals involved in the ITC Deer Park plant fire can also cause long-term health problems, including cancer, chronic respiratory distress, brain damage, and liver and kidney problems.
ITC has urged individuals who suffered injuries and losses in connection with the disaster to sign up for the company’s compensation program. But as Ryan Zehl recently explained, anyone accepting compensation through this program would be PERMANENTLY BARRED from later filing a lawsuit to hold ITC responsible for any serious (or even fatal) medical conditions that develop in the future.
“That is 100% absolutely true,” he told KHOU-11. “There’s no way that a company is going to compensate someone in the claims process and then allow the possibility of future liability to exist.”
“If I were to advise my own children or family member or friend,” he continued, “I would tell them to talk to a lawyer and evaluate your legal options and then make the decision that’s best for you and your family
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