Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan sues ITC over Deer Park tank fire

DEER PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has sued Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) over the tank fire that began March 17 at their facility in Deer Park.

The Texas attorney general has already filed a lawsuit ITC.

Harris County Commissioners approved the lawsuit which seeks a temporary restraining order and temporary and permanent injunctions in an environmental enforcement action.

The County Attorney charges that ITC is responsible for burning and air emissions in violation of the state's Clean Air Act, discharging industrial waste into nearby waters in violation of state law and county regulations, and violation of county floodplain regulations by not having development permits for structures at its facility.

"This company put the health of Harris County residents in danger in many ways for several days," said County Attorney Ryan. "We will hold them responsible for their actions."

Harris County's Pollution Control, Emergency Management and Fire Marshall personnel responded to two tanks burning at ITC on March 17. Over the next few days, more tanks caught fire, releasing air contaminants.

Firefighting foam sprayed on the burning tanks by ITC and industrial wastewater were discharged into the surrounding water. A containment dike breached on March 22, allowing the discharge into Tucker Bayou, before the tank reignited.

In addition, benzene leaks from fire-damaged tanks and firefighting foam caused two local shelter-in-place advisories.

On Wednesday, officials gave updates on the clean-up efforts, with the U.S. Coast Guard saying that the Houston Ship Channel is back open from Tucker Bayou to light 116 for vessel traffic inbound and outbound.

The decision comes after 106 vessels were moved in and out of the area and only one required minor cleaning with hot water. It will be open during daylight hours only.

The entire area had been closed since Friday due to oily product in the water.

So far, more than 33,000 barrels of product have been recovered from the tank farm.

ITC incident commander Brent Weber said that in another milestone, tank 80-10, the last of the pygas-containing tanks, has been secured. Pygas has benzene in it.

ITC continues to pump tank 80-13. Officials say they've also seen an improvement in air quality in the affected area and surrounding communities.

The company has made progress in remediating the ditches along Tidal Road, Independence Parkway and the property around the facility.

If you have concerns about your health and you don't have a care provider, Harris Health System's Ask My Nurse hotline will remain open through 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. The number is 713-634-1110.

SEE ALSO: Fireball erupts as Deer Park tank fire burns

ITC says that so far it has received 2,000 calls to its claims hotline. Hundreds of claims have been submitted.

How to file a claim against ITC for illness or damage from smoke

As a precaution, Harris County Commissioner Precinct 2 has closed the following parks with waterfronts as cleanup continues:

Bay Area Park in Houston
Clear Lake Park in Seabrook

Sylvan Beach in La Porte
Juan Seguin in La Porte
Rio Villa Nature Trail
Meadow Brook
River Terrace
Moncrief Park
The Lynchburg Ferry remains closed to the public.

BAYTOWN: The Baytown Nature Center will also remain closed until further notice.

LA PORTE: Seabreeze Park and Klein Retreat in La Porte will remain closed until further notice.
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