On Saturday morning the Houston Ship Channel briefly shut down because of a roaring fire at a Pasadena refinery that injured at least one worker.
This weekend’s fire, which broke out at around 10 a.m. Saturday at the Pasadena Refining Systems plant, is a reminder that in the nation’s petrochemical epicenter, it’s not really a question of if these accidents will happen but when.
It was just late January that an explosion at Pasadena’s PeroxyChem plant shook the neighborhood, killing one plant worker and injuring at least three others. Also in January, a fire at a Marathon refinery in Texas City injured three workers. Last October, four workers were hospitalized when something went boom at the SunEdison plant, also in Pasadena.
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According to officials, the worker injured in Saturday’s fire was hospitalized, treated for burns and released the same day.
Pasadena Refining Systems plant appears to have been both a crappy neighbor and a more dangerous employer than other plants in the area for the past several years. As the Houston Chronicle first reported this weekend, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company $14,000 after a December 2011 explosion that injured at least one worker. The Pasadena Citizens Advisory Council reports that the refinery saw 11 injuries last year, compared to one or zero injuries at other plants during the same time, according to the Chron.
The plant has also seen $1.1 million in fines from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since 2010. Since October, the plant has also seen 11 so-called “emission events,” in which it spewed more than the allowed levels of pollution.
It also appears the plant operated illegally since 2014, when a federal operating permit lapsed. Company officials called an end to a press conference Saturday just four minutes in, refusing to address the regulatory lapses or complaints from the neighborhood, according to the Chron. One neighbor told the daily, “That place is a ticking time bomb.”