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ITC Reports Breach Cause Unknown, New Fire is Out, Pumping Suspended

Whether delivered in English or though the Spanish interpreter. Saturday was another day of not-all-good news about the ITC plant in Deer Park
Whether delivered in English or though the Spanish interpreter. Saturday was another day of not-all-good news about the ITC plant in Deer Park Photo by Kate McLean
One week after their Deer Park plant caught on fire and released chemical vapors into the surrounding neighborhoods, ITC officials held another press conference Saturday morning to review their latest setbacks and outline what they’ll do next.

At 3:45 p.m. Friday, tanks 80-2, 80-3 and 80-5 containing a gas blend and xylene re-ignited. Flames were put out about an hour later, ITC reported. This followed an earlier day containment wall breach and collapse that sent unknown chemicals out into the Houston Ship Channel, causing a partial shutdown which continued Saturday and now appears to be indefinite.

Saturday, ITC spokeswoman Alice Richardson said that the collapsed wall had been successfully secured. U.S. Coast Guard Captain Kevin Oditt, working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said they will work on identifying spill trajectories and have deployed 8,500 feet of boom to capture pockets of oil in sensitive areas including and around Tucker Bayou, Battleship Texas, and Santa Anna Bayou.

“I don’t exactly have a time table. I will reopen the ship channel once we are able to determine that hazardous levels no longer exist and are able to recover any physical product on the waterway,” Oditt said.

ITC plans to first strengthen the breached wall, and then resume pumping chemicals – which had been suspended — into empty tanks nearby. They still, are unsure how many thousands of barrels remain underneath the protective foam. Webber confirmed that at maximum efficiency they could pump 20,000 barrels within 12 hours.

Asked whether ITC could bring in more resources, ITC incident commander, Brent Webber said, “We have multiple pumps but because of the dynamics of the situation it’s a little bit harder to get into some areas of the tank farm, compared to 80-7. We are working multiple plans simultaneously.”

With the re-ignition still on ongoing threat, Richardson said, “We have positioned additional fire-fighting foam pumps around the containment area. These foam pumps will allow us to apply a higher volume of foam, quickly should the foam barrier break.”

Adam Adams, Environmental Protection Agency, said they are continuing to with Anthony Buck of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to collect water samples, and conduct air tests with aerial support as well as on-ground Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer. TCEQ has mobilized full support from headquarters in Austin as well as surrounding offices.

“Yesterday the focus was stabilizing the site. Had we come across any hazardous conditions we would have notified command. As soon as we find hazardous conditions we get that information out to the community,” Adams said. The EPA and TCEQ will then present their findings to local authorities who make the final call in terms of whether a shelter in place should be called.
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