All clear given following leak in Texas City

January 29, 2011 4:40:00 PM PST
A gas leak forced people from their homes in Texas City and some are questioning the warnings they received. We told you about the chemical leak at the Marathon Plant in Texas City this morning. The leak forced crews to evacuate some homes near the plant off Sixth Avenue and 11th Street.

The gas that leaked was isobutene which is a hydrocarbon and potentially flammable if it comes in contact with an open flame.

The alarm at Marathon Petroleum Corporation sounded before 8:30am. That's when Aurora Cadena jumped out of bed.

"Nobody told us anything," said Cadena. "We just heard the alarm going off."

Reports of a gas leak quickly spread. From their headquarters in Findley, Ohio, a spokesman said it happened inside the plant. Refinery workers were removed from the hazard zone, while the problem was isolated and the leak repaired.

Texas City's office of emergency management called for residents within a three block radius to evacuate. That's about 12 homes. Lawrence Bookman's home was one of them.

"I came out the house and looked around and I ain't seen anybody going nowhere so I didn't go nowhere," he said.

Bookman and his neighbors said after the all clear was issued they didn't know about the evacuation because of an underlying problem with the plant's alert. They don't understand it.

"You can't understand what they're saying," said Bookman. "You don't know if they're saying 'evacuate' or 'go back to the work spot' or whatever."

"They should've told us something because we live right in front of them," said Cadena.

With children and pets playing outside, these homeowners want a stronger warning, like a knock on the door or a courtesy drive-by.

"They need to come out and tell us something, just don't have us stuck out," said Bookman.

No one was injured in the gas leak and operations weren't interrupted. The city offered a shelter for evacuees but no one showed up.

As for the evacuation order, Marathon spokesperson Robert Calmus told me over the phone he will make some calls first thing Monday and talk to officials at the Texas City plant to find out if anything can be done to address that and make the alert system more easily understandable.