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TCEQ brings in more resources after 'worsening and unstable conditions' at ITC

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a contractor using booms and pumping water into storage containers to contain runoff from the ITC site.

HOUSTON — Nine substances exceeding the health-protective concentration level were found in water samples tested by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state agency said Saturday.

The TCEQ is mobilizing resources from Beaumont, Corpus Christi and Harlingen regional offices in response to "worsening and unstable conditions" at Intercontinental Terminals Co. in Deer Park. 

This is the result of the dike breach surrounding a chemical tank farm and subsequent fires at ITC. 

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a contractor using booms and pumping water into storage containers to contain runoff from the ITC site. 

Water sampling was temporarily suspended after the dike breach Friday, but it picked back up once it was safe to do so, according to TCEQ.

The Coast Guard's Gulf Strike Team, which specializes in spill cleanups, is assisting.

TCEQ released the following statement Saturday:

"TCEQ has been analyzing water quality data Adobe Acrobat PDF Document from the ditch leading from the facility and collected by the TCEQ and ITC’s contractor exit. The agency is evaluating for 117 constituents as part of a thorough lab analysis. Nine constituents in the samples tested thus far exceeded their health-protective concentration level, including total xylenes, pyrene, anthracene, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, phenanthrene, fluoranthene, and 2-methylnaphthalene. As other results of the analyses are complete, they will be made available via TCEQ’s ITC response page. Surface water sampling continues in Tucker Bayou, the Houston Ship Channel, and where the channel enters Galveston Bay.

"No threat to local public drinking water systems has been detected, and no drinking water system draws its source water from the Houston Ship Channel."

One of TCEQ's temporary air monitoring stations registered high levels of benzene at about 4 p.m. Friday, during the reignited fire.

This was directly across from the Houston Ship Channel at 207 parts per billion, according to TCEQ.

It led to an onsite shelter-in-place at ITC. The new fire was extinguished at about 5 p.m.

EPA’s TAGA bus exit had readings of 1,000 ppb of benzene on Peninsula Street, near Buffalo Bayou. 

TCEQ says short-term exposure to one-hour benzene concentrations above 180 ppb can be a cause for health concern.

Benzene levels across all stationary monitors in the Houston area remained low overnight, TCEQ officials say. 

"There was one elevated reading of 26.8 ppb at the Channelview stationary monitor at 6 p.m. with concentrations dropping back down to the low parts per billion range for subsequent hourly measurements," the TCEQ statement says.

"At 5 a.m., the Channelview monitor recorded a 70.5 ppb benzene reading; subsequently, hourly readings returned to low levels. Temporary monitoring stations relocated today to the Jacinto Port Boulevard area to be directly downwind of ITC. TCEQ teams are combing the area around ITC with hand-held air monitors Adobe Acrobat PDF Document."

Check TCEQ’s ITC Fire Incident webpage for updates on the response to the fire and dike breach. 

The TCEQ says residents should go to webpages by Deer Park exit, Harris County exit, or their city to check for latest health warnings and heed them.


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