No timetable for reopening Texas ship channel following leak | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

No timetable for reopening Texas ship channel following leak

Associated Press
927245_web1_927245-dcb1640cdcee41acbac27a5b6f535f23
AP
A Texas Commission on Environmental Quality mobile unit is used to monitor air quality near the Houston Ship Channel Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Houston. The efforts to clean up the Intercontinental Terminals Company petrochemical facility, that burned for several days this week, were hamstrung Friday by a briefly reignited fire and a breach that led to chemicals spilling into the nearby Houston Ship Channel. A portion of the channel remains closed.
927245_web1_927245-e749aaf4d74f413a84be934f92a3356a
927245_web1_927245-26cecabaf5c347ccab36d65d58baeae0
Godofredo A. Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP
The petrochemical fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company reignited as crews tried to clean out the chemicals that remained in the tanks, Friday, March 22, 2019, in Deer Park, Texas. The efforts to clean up a Texas industrial plant that burned for several days this week were hamstrung Friday by a briefly reignited fire and a breach that led to chemicals spilling into the nearby Houston Ship Channel.

HOUSTON — Officials have no timetable for reopening a portion of the Houston Ship Channel, one of the busiest commercial waterways in the country, after another setback caused flammable chemicals to seep into the water near a fire-ravaged petrochemical tank farm, a Coast Guard commander said Saturday.

Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Oditt said during a news conference that work was underway to contain and absorb benzene and other contaminants after a dike failed adjacent to the farm operated by the Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park, southeast of Houston.

The breach occurred Friday. As of early Saturday, more than 40 vessels — oil tankers, container ships and other crafts — were either trying to move south out of the channel or north toward awaiting terminals, according to Coast Guard petty officer Kelly Parker. The channel is a critical waterway that connects oil refineries between the Port of Houston and the Gulf of Mexico.

ITC was planning Saturday to resume pumping some 20,000 barrels of product from a tank heavily damaged by the fire, which began Sunday, March 17, and was extinguished Wednesday, but flared again on two occasions. The most recent flare-up on Friday took an hour to suppress and disrupted the pumping, ITC executive Brent Weber said.

The tanks that caught fire contained components of gasoline and materials used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner.

Residents already alarmed by a large plume of black smoke that billowed for days from the farm were further shaken by an order Thursday to remain indoors after elevated levels of benzene were detected in the air. Schools in the region also were shuttered and waterfront parks were closed to the public as a precaution. The chemical evaporates quickly and can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and headaches, with worse symptoms at higher levels of exposure.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against ITC, saying Friday that Texas had to hold the company “accountable for the damage it has done to our environment.” The company has had a history of environmental violations, Paxton said.

ITC spokeswoman Alice Richardson declined to comment on Paxton’s claims, citing the pending litigation.

Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton Jr. has spent days giving assurances that company and public officials are working in a transparent manner to provide the latest updates to anxious residents.

“Everything doesn’t always work the way it’s planned,” he told reporters Saturday.

“Everybody out here is doing the best they can,” Mouton said, later adding, “They’re trying to address every situation to the best of their ability.”

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.