LA PORTE, Texas — UPDATE 12 p.m. Thursday | The evacuation has been lifted and roads in the area have been re-opened, according to La Porte Emergency Management.
Story from Wednesday below
A shelter-in-place order has been lifted in La Porte, but residents in a small area near the Dow Chemical plant in Bayport are still evacuated as of Thursday morning.
The alert was first issued at about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday after workers found a tanker trailer with hydroxyethyl acrylate venting. Later in the day, community leaders said the air quality in the area was no longer a concern, and the shelter-in-place order was lifted. But the evacuation order continued for some overnight.
According to a message on the Community Awareness Emergency Response line, "safe venting" was still underway just before 2 a.m. Thursday. Officials said they are concerned about the risk of a fire or explosion, and that's why a few homes near the Dow facility remained evacuated.
Roads near Bay Area Boulevard and W. Fairmont Parkway remained closed early Thursday as well.
The venting tanker truck was discovered during a routine inspection. The concerns grew once the truck stopped releasing the chemicals by early Wednesday afternoon. Officials said they don't know why it stopped.
The evacuation area:
Officials said they poured water on the tanker to lower the temperature. They sent in drones to try to get a temperature reading. Dow Chemical said it also sent two emergency personnel into the facility to perform thermal assessments of the tanker trucks.
"Worst case scenario, there could be an explosion. We could hear loud noises. Could be fire. The materials that are in there could burn off. If it burns, it could be less bad. It's less bad because you are not having the most dangerous chemicals a threat to health, instead, they are burning off," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.
No injuries have been reported.
Most of the affected area is industrial, but there are 10 homes within the radius. All but two residents have been evacuated.
Schools in the area were evacuated but returned to the classroom after no major air quality issues were found. Drivers were told to avoid the area as the evacuation order continued.
“We just need residents to avoid the area,” Hidalgo said. “We’re just asking folks in the La Porte area to remain vigilant.”
About hydroxyethyl acrylate
According to cameochemicals.noaa.gov, the hazardous chemical can cause irritation of nose and throat, if inhaled. Contact with the liquid can irritate the eyes and skin. It's used for coatings and adhesives
Early Wednesday, views from Air 11 showed several tanker trailers getting sprayed by firefighters. There were no flames or smoke visible.
Dow Chemical, Bayport issued the following statement on its Community Awareness Emergency Response line at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday:
"This is a message from Dow Chemical, Bayport located at 13300 Bay Area Blvd La Porte,TX 77572. At 07:27 on 7/21/2021, a(n) Process Upset incident occurred at our facility. At this time. Emergency Vehicles, Sirens may be noticeable to the community. We are coordinating with local officials, and working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Stay tuned to local officials for more information. Update will be provided on this site, when needed."
This is a map of the general area referenced by the OEM: