Houston — Damaged Storage Facility Contaminates Houston Channel, Creates Cloud of Cancer-Causing Chemical
Posted on Monday, March 25th, 2019 at 1:35 am
A fire that broke out at the Intercontinental Terminal Co. (ITC) facility in Deer Park, Texas about a week ago has proven to be potentially more dangerous than initially thought. This is because on the one hand, it has created a large plume of black smoke that contains the cancer-causing chemical benzene and this smoke not only hangs over the city but it has also started to drift off over the eastern parts of Harris County, even reaching out as far as Austin and San Antonio. And for another, it has also caused oil byproducts to leak into the Houston Ship Channel after a dike wall collapsed because of a new fire that reignited in the facility last Friday, March 22, 2019.
As a result to these recent developments, the ship channel is closed for the meantime. Captain Kevin Oditt with the U.S. Coast Guard said that they deployed a total of 8,500 feet of boom, hoping to trap as much of the chemical waste that entered the water as possible. Unfortunately, even with these efforts, some of the waste still did make it to the ship channel’s waters, and so far, nine toxins were detected, most particularly benzene — a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor that is also a known carcinogen. Other chemicals detected were total xylenes, pyrene, anthracene, ethylbenzene, toluene, phenanthrene, fluoranthene, and 2-methylnaphthalene.
On Friday, ITC reported that there were still about 60,000 barrels (2.52 million gallons) of hazardous chemicals in the damaged section of the complex, and by Saturday morning, they no longer knew how much remained.
Ever since the fire broke out and the air has been contaminated with several chemicals, about 1,000 people have sought treatment at a pop-up clinic because of nausea, headaches, and other symptoms, with 15 of the most severe cases brought to hospital emergency rooms. With this, the Texas National Guard has dispatched troops to assist local authorities with air monitoring, thus prompting take-shelter alerts and road closures.
This chemical plant fire is now being considered as the worst industrial disaster since the March 2005 explosion at BP Plc’s Texas City refinery that killed 15 people.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board will be investigating the blaze. Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is planning to file a lawsuit against ITC, accusing the latter of violating clean-air laws.
It is unfortunate to hear of this chemical plant fire and the consequences that residents are experiencing because of this. Alas, fires in industrial or manufacturing properties are common occurrences in the United States. In fact, between 2011 and 2015, municipal fire departments in the U.S. reported that an estimated average of 37,910 fires at industrial or manufacturing properties happen each year, with annual losses from these fires estimated at 16 civilian deaths, 273 civilian injuries, and $1.2 billion in direct property damage. Furthermore, structure fires accounted for 20% of the fires, 49% of civilian deaths, 80% of civilian injuries, and 67% of direct property damage.
Additionally, oil spills are incredibly dangerous as well. Oil spills caused by damaged tankers, pipelines, or offshore oil rigs almost always result in immediate and long-term environmental damage that can last for decades. This is because they coat everything they touch and become long-term but unwelcome parts of every ecosystem they enter. As a result, they can have damaging consequences to the marine life in particular, killing or contaminating fish and smaller organisms. Oil spills can indirectly affect humans too, especially if they consume contaminated organisms or have some contact with contaminated water or sand (in the case of beaches).
Industrial fires and oil spills can be as complicated as they are damaging to the victims. Thankfully, there are lawyers who are experts in cases like this. That is why, if you think you are a victim of an effect of an oil spill/chemical plant fire, or you know someone who is, or you lost a loved one because of this, then please never hesitate in asking help from these lawyers. They will help you in protecting your rights and in getting you the justice that you deserve.
If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The Houston attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (888) 220-0640 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.
Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.
Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.