Multiple toxins found in water near ITC facility after fire spill into waterways

Monday, March 25, 2019
Nine toxins found in waters near ITC facility
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The Houston Ship Channel remains closed as crews continue their cleanup.

DEER PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- As cleanup efforts continue at ITC facility in Deer Park, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has confirmed dangerous chemical levels in the waters near Buffalo Bayou and in the Houston Ship Channel.

During a press conference Saturday, officials said that three tanks caught fire Friday. The first issue happened during the morning when a dike holding contaminated runoff from the firefighting efforts broke.

ITC officials say the 10-foot breach in the wall has been closed, but they're working to strengthen it and figure out what caused it.

After the wall breach, officials decided to suspend their efforts in offloading chemicals into secure tanks until they can fix the problem.

"Our main objectives today is to maintain safety, second thing is to do some remediation of the ditches, and then lastly, is to resume product removal," ITC incident commander Brent Weber said.

The Houston Ship Channel will remain closed, and officials said there's no time table on when it will reopen after chemicals were released into the waterway.

The U.S. Coast Guard Gulf Strike Team was called in to help with the cleanup efforts.

There's also no estimate on how many days the problems at the facility will last, but officials promised community members that they were working to figure out the issues.

According to a press release from TCEQ, during the cleanup, the EPA recorded readings of 1,000 ppb of benzene on Penninsula Street near Buffalo Bayou. Short-term exposure to one-hour benzene concentration above 1800 ppb can be a cause for health concerns, TCEQ said.

TCEQ added the following in their statement:

"TCEQ has been analyzing water quality data from the ditch leading from the facility and collected by the TCEQ and ITC's contractor. The agency is evaluating for 117 constituents as part of a thorough lab analysis. Nine constituents in the samples tested thus far exceeded their health-protective concentration level, including total xylenes, pyrene, anthracene, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, phenanthrene, fluoranthene, and 2-methylnaphthalene."

Officials say no threat to local public drinking water systems has been detected, and no drinking water system draws its source water from the Houston Ship Channel.

Meantime, the Harris County Office of Emergency Management will remain open 24 hours a day until they feel there is no potential for anything to happen.

A series of town halls have also been planned over the next few days.

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