Houston Petrochemical Plant Blaze Re-ignites as Hundreds are Treated for Sickness

Source: Godofredo Vasquez - Houston Chronicle

Deer Park, TX – Emergency management officials report that a fire that burned several days at Intercontinental Terminal Co.’s chemical storage complex petrochemical facility in suburban Houston has reignited.

Bloomberg reports that multiple sections of the complex belched smoke and flames, sending a new black plume over Houston.

Although the company said Friday that there were about 60,000 barrels (2.52 million gallons) of hazardous chemicals still held in the damaged section of its complex, by Saturday morning it no longer knew how much remained. Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit accusing ITC of violating clean-air laws.

Officials report about 700 people sought treatment for nausea, headaches, and other symptoms in the chemical disaster zone, with 15 of the most-severe cases loaded onto ambulances and transported to hospital emergency rooms.

The 15 hospitalized patients were suffering serious respiratory difficulties, said Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been testing water samples from the so-called containment area surrounding the tanks that burned. Adam Adams, a coordinator for the agency, said earlier this week that results would be released Friday.

ITC said the US Coast Guard has closed part of the Houston Ship Channel near the facility in response to the breach.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) announced late Thursday it will be investigating the blaze.

The Texas National Guard dispatched troops to assist local authorities with air monitoring after cancer-causing benzene permeated the air, prompting take-shelter alerts and road closures.