ITC Deer Park Petrochemical Plant Had History of Violations Long Before Tank Fire

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The International Terminal Company’s long history of serious environmental violations is under renewed scrutiny, after a massive tank fire burned for days at the ITC Deer Park petrochemical plant near Houston, Texas.

ITC Fined $65,000 for Environmental Violations Since 2009

Located 15 miles southeast of the nation’s fourth-largest city, the 265-acre Deer Park facility stores hazardous petrochemicals for multiple energy companies, including Chevron, Phillips 66, and Exxon Chemical.

Although ITC insists it complies with the law, a Houston Chronicle investigation found that federal, state, and local environmental regulators have fined the company more $65,000 since 2009. The Deer Park petrochemical plant apparently committed multiple violations of clean air and water rules during that time period, and also failed to comply with federal risk management rules.

ITC Deer Park Air Pollution Violations

Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that ITC has violated the federal Clean Water Act in 9 of the last 12 quarters.

In July 2017, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) fined ITC $18,300 for releasing 10-times the permitted amount of cyanide into the San Jacinto River basin.

The company released more than three times the monthly limit for sulfide in 2016, and had excessive chlorine discharges in 2015.

ITC hasn’t submit federally-required reports on the facility’s chemical discharges since July 2017.

ITC Deer Park Clean Air Violations

According to Environmental Texas, the ITC Deer Park petrochemical plant has had at least 39 unauthorized emissions releases since 2003. That’s not even counting the St. Patrick’s Day tank fire, which discharged an unbelievable 3.1 million pounds of pollution  into atmosphere.

The Deer Park facility was fined $10,000 in 2009, after a relief valve blew off a tank and released more than 6,000 pounds of butadiene – a human carcinogen – into the air. According to the TECEQ, the blown valve was the result of ITC’s “failure to prevent an increase in pressure,”  and was “avoidable by better operational practices.”

The ITC Deer Park plant released more than 1,500 pounds of unauthorized benzene emissions over a five-day period in 2016, and failed to notify the TECEQ within the mandatory 24-hour period. The regulator fined the facility more than $4,200.

Harris County ITC Deer Park Pollution Lawsuits

In 2007, Harris County sued the ITC Deer Park petrochemical plant for multiple violations of the Texas Clean Air Act, Texas Clean Water Act and the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act. That case ultimately settled for more than $52,000, but the company did not admit to any wrongdoing

Harris County filed a second lawsuit just two years later, following the release of more than 8,000 lbs of toluene into the air, ground, and water. The County also accused ITC of failing to comply with the terms of the earlier settlement. The company eventually paid $32,500 in civil penalties to resolve those claims.

The state of Texas and Harris County have already sued ITC for Clean Air Act violations in connection with the Deer Park tank fire. Both lawsuits seek civil penalties, while the county is also requesting a temporary restraining order that would prevent ITC from reopening the Deer Park petrochemical plant until a court-ordered third-party review determines it’s safe to resume operations.

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