Chemical-tainted creek concerns residents after fire in Spring Branch

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Neighbors raise concerns over wildlife impacted by the runoff following yesterday's massive fire at a Spring Branch warehouse.

Thursday included the shock and awe of a four-alarm warehouse fire in Spring Branch, which evacuated a nearby elementary school and prompted a shelter-in-place for nearby neighborhoods.

Day 2 brought with it dead fish in Spring Branch Creek and turtles struggling in the water.

VIDEO: Firefighters ID chemicals in water after massive warehouse fire
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Authorities are warning resdients not to consume the red liquid.

"There was so much wildlife out here," said one woman staring at the murky water Friday afternoon. "And it's all dying."

The toxic runoff was identified by the Houston Fire Department as petroleum additive, with a bright red colorant. The more serious one was a pesticide that dissolves in water. Vegetation along the creek already appeared to be dying Thursday.

The exact components of the products have yet to be identified, but now both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the EPA are also investigating the spill, and involved in the cleanup.

Clint Pustejovsky, of Texas Snakes and More, prepared to walk along the creek, to fish out snakes and turtles. None of the snakes he rescued has survived he said, and he expects only one of three turtles he's trying to save to survive.

"It's the worst thing I've ever seen here," he said of the spill.

More than reptiles may be affected, said Steve Hupp, who's the water quality monitor for the Bayou Preservation Association.

"I'm also worried about the hawks that feed on the dead fish, the raccoons, and the possums. So there's that lingering effect as well," he said.

The creek feeds into Buffalo Bayou, which then feeds into the bay. It's all connected, but Hupp said there's not enough information at present to predict how big the spill's impact may be.

VIDEO: Fireballs fill sky over warehouse in Spring Branch
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Huge warehouse fire sends fireballs into Houston sky

PHOTOS: Massive industrial fire in northwest Houston

There are environmental concerns for people as well. Air quality monitoring has been ordered for the area directly along the creek, where a strange smell coming from the water lingers.

It's also recommended that people avoid the area until the cleanup is complete.

The City of Houston tested its own water supply in the area and found no contamination. There are private water wells in the area, but are said to be used for irrigation, and not for drinking.

Councilmember Brenda Stardig chairs the homeland security committee and expects to have a meeting on the spill next week. Her questions, she said, will included why the chemical warehouse owner couldn't be contacted quickly, even as the fire was burning.

Asked how she would rank this environmental spill, Stardig replied that she couldn't, because it's too close to home and heart.

"These are people's homes and where their children play. I was one of those kids that played upstream. I can't put a value on this, but it's a bad situation," she said.

VIDEO: Four-alarm fire destroys warehouse in NW Houston
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The 4-alarm fire in Spring Branch started at a home behind the warehouse that ruptured into fireballs.

VIDEO: Pillars of fire, smoke rise from Spring Branch warehouse
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In this viewer-submitted video, flames and heavy smoke are seen in a huge four-alarm fire in Spring Branch

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building firefirechemical leakwild animalshouston fire departmentHouston
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